Energy

Thermal power plants must assess health impact for green clearance

Environment ministry notification mandates bi-annual health check-ups for workers 

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Friday 23 November 2018
Cooling towers at a thermal power station. The notification mandates that the study must take into account the effects of noise and air pollution. Credits: Getty Images
Cooling towers at a thermal power station. The notification mandates that the study must take into account the effects of noise and air pollution. Credits: Getty Images Cooling towers at a thermal power station. The notification mandates that the study must take into account the effects of noise and air pollution. Credits: Getty Images

An assessment of how a new thermal power plant could affect human health and environment will be mandatory for proposed power projects to get environmental clearances (EC), the Union government says. Such projects must also conduct health check-ups for workers twice a year.

As part of “standard EC conditions”, baseline health status assessment “within the study area”, as well as mitigation measures to address endemic diseases to will be mandatory, according to a note from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

Mandating the health check-ups for workers, the note added the study must take into account the effects of noise and air pollution, which may lead to hypertension and increase in blood pressure.

The potential impact of such projects on agriculture and large water bodies also needs to be considered, mandated the notification that is significant in the backdrop of rising pollution in India.

More than a quarter of the country’s premature deaths (among those aged 25 or more) were due to air pollution caused by thermal power plants and industries, DTE had earlier reported. Most coal-fired plants were found to be violating pollution norms.

The Supreme Court, recently, directed power firms of state governments to appraise it about the time required for complying with emission standards, including on nitrogen oxide (NOX). The Centre stated that National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) were directed to comply with emission norms by December 31, 2021.

The MoEF notification has also listed measures to improve air quality monitoring and management, including measures to deal with pollutants at excavation sites, crusher plants etc.

According to a CSE study,  India consumed about 700 million tonnes coal in 2012-13, 70 per cent of which was fired up to generate electricity. The study found that coal handling was routinely outsourced to unskilled contract workers with little health benefits; safety protocols are ignored in most plants.

Most had poor provisions for controlling dust emissions and water pollution: almost all power plants stored coal in open yards with no wind breakers; some of the plants studied transported coal through uncovered conveyor systems, the report pointed out.

“Also, very few plants had proper storm drainage system; most posed the risk of leaching into groundwater or overflowing into nearby fields and water bodies,” it added.

In the national capital, the severity of pollution led to the shut down of the Badarpur Thermal Power Station on October 15.

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