Controls off for diesel generators

Key environmental clause deleted from rules governing diesel generator sets barely six months after implementation

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Saturday 15 February 2003

-- (Credit: Arvind Yadav / CSE)barely six months after laws to check noise and air pollution from generator sets came into force, they have been watered down. It is ironic that one of the implementing agencies - the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (dpcc) - is to blame. Worse still, the dilution will impact the environment adversely.

In May last year, the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) notified the Environment (Protection) Second Amendment Rules, 2002. The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (derc) followed this up in June with the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (Grant of Consent for Captive Power Plants) Regulations, 2002.

The derc regulations made it mandatory for consumers to get gensets above 25 kilo volt ampere (kva) capa-city checked for air and noise pollution by the dpcc. It was only subsequent to this crucial clearance that the derc would go ahead with the final registration.

But snags surfaced right at the outset. For almost six months, consumers were made to run from pillar to post to get their gensets certified. Their attempts proved futile as dpcc failed to put in place a certification procedure. As a last resort the derc amended its regulations in January 2003, eliminating the dpcc's role. It did away with clause 9, which stipulates that captive power plants (cpp) abide by emission standards set by the Union or state government. The section notes: "They (the cpps) will have to obtain all the required environmental and pollution clearances from the central or the state pollution control authorities and submit proof of such clearance along with the application. The grant/renewal of consent for cpp shall be subject to such clearances."

derc secretary M L Sharma details the commission's decision: "By including clause 9 in our notification, we had made a conscious effort to protect the environment and safeguard human health. We were not bound to do so, as a separate notification already exists for checking pollution from gensets under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986." Sharma holds dpcc responsible for the entire process being thrown out of gear: "The committee was supposed to verify whether gensets fell within the stipulated environmental parameters. But it failed to do so. We realised that the consumers were bearing the brunt as applications were getting stuck. Hence we have done away with clause 9."

The dpcc is tight-lipped on the issue. On being questioned about the amendment that in effect ends the committee's involvement in the process, dpcc chairperson Naini Jayaseelan said that that the derc should know better since it had made the changes.
Nuts and bolts According to the derc regulations notified in June 2002, those authorised by the commission could operate a cpp in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. A cpp refers to a power plant set up or proposed to be installed by a person or a group of persons for their use.

Only gensets above 25 kva capacity need to be registered with the derc. In case of generators with a capacity above 10 kva and up to 25 kva, the commission just needs to be informed in writing. Gensets below 10 kva are not covered under the regulations.

The aim of derc's regulations was to control pollution from gensets in keeping with moef's rules. The possession of two documents will be required to comply with the latter, which will be enforced from July 2003: type approval certificate and conformity of production certificate. Gensets already in use are being monitored for noise emissions only, which "shall be controlled by providing an acoustic enclosure...designed for minimum 25 decibel (db) insertion loss..." says the moef notification.In other words, the manufacturer has to provide the user with a standard acoustic enclosure to limit noise levels to 25 db. The noise limit is divided into two parts: gensets up to 1,000 kva capacity manufactured on or after July 1, 2003, and the existing ones up to any capacity.

"While old gensets have to follow only noise emission and stack height regulations, the new variants that enter the market after July 1, 2003, have to follow air emission regulations as well," reveals G K Mendiratta, environmental engineer, Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb), Delhi. These apply to new diesel gensets up to 800 kva capacity (see: 'Generating controversy', August 15, 2002).

According to V J Talwar, director (engineering), derc, the commission has received about 1,100 applications for genset certification out of which 150 have been cleared and 600 more would be approved soon. Some data is missing in the rest for which consumers have been intimated. "We were flooded with consumers' complaints, as their applications were pending with us. Now, we will clear the backlog," he adds. "The derc wanted a transparent system for testing gensets so that consumers did not suffer. But somehow the dpcc did not measure up," laments Talwar.

Derailed by DPCC
Prior to the January 2003 amendment, dpcc's environmental clearance (issuance of a no-objection certificate based on noise and air emission tests) was a must. For this, the dpcc had to establish a testing procedure. While dpcc member secretary Debashree Mukherjee had said in November 2002 that "we, along with the department of environment (doe), Delhi government, are working on it", the committee could not deliver even after six months.

The delay is attributed to the lack of testing facilities. "The dpcc is unable to handle the current load of genset testing applications, as there is not a single laboratory in Delhi accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories or the International Organisation for Standardisation (iso)," says Mukherjee. Hence, the committee has to conduct all the tests at its own laboratory. The process is slowed down further as testing each generator set takes a minimum of seven days.

In the wake of these procedural problems, some manufacturers feel that testing generators is not a viable proposition. "There are so many gensets already in use in the country and there are only a few testing facilities. Is it practically possible for these laboratories to conduct tests?" asks S Mohindru, general manager with New Delhi-based Usha International Limited, a dealer in diesel gensets. cpcb concedes that there is a hitch because only two laboratories are authorised to test gensets for air emissions: the Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India, and the Vehicle Research and Development Establishment which is located in Ahmednagar.

The dpcc is, meanwhile, mulling on an alternative system of self-certification. As per this, genset makers would be required to obtain bulk clearances. "Manufacturers will carry out emission tests and certify gensets on their own. dpcc will randomly check the validity of certificates issued. If some anomaly is detected, action will be taken against the offender," elaborates Mukherjee. Self-certification is, however, still at a draft stage and the Delhi government has not vetted it yet. Expectedly, the proposal has been welcomed by dealers. "We can serve consumers better. Instead of spending thousands of rupees on illegal gratification, they can get assured certification within Rs 20,000 from us," says a New Delhi-based dealer of Kirloskar gensets.

But it may be difficult for official agencies to keep passing the buck by offering explanations and suggesting options. The mef rules will come into effect from July 2003 when the dpcc will have to shoulder the responsibility for emission testing. The right approach, therefore, would be to put in place a procedure and work towards implementing the regulations.

Whereas the removal of clause 9 has made the process less cumbersome for the consumer, it spells trouble for the environment. Appallingly, a notification to check pollution in Delhi has been changed for the worse due to the incompetence of a single agency.

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