As told to Parliament (December 18, 2023): CSE finds coal-fired power plants around Delhi not complying with emission norms

All that was discussed in the House through the day

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 18 December 2023

Ashwini Kumar Choubey, minister of state in the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC), was asked about coal-based power plants around Delhi not complying with the emission norms in the Lok Sabha, quoting a recent study by Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). 

The timeline for Category A plants, including those located within a 10-kilometre radius of national capital region (NCR), to comply with new emission norms for parameters other than sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission was December 31, 2022, the minister said.

There are four thermal power plants under Category A located within a 10-km radius of the NCR; these thermal power plants have complied with the applicable emission limits, that is, for parameters other than SO2 emission, he added. 

Besides, seven thermal power plants under Category C are located within a 300 km radius of Delhi, for which the time limits to comply with the emission norms for parameters other than SO2 and for SO2 is December 31, 2024 and December 31, 2026 respectively, Choubey said.

NGT notices to SPCBs, PCCs

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 6, 2023 issued a notice to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and MoEFCC to provide data with regard to State Pollution Control Boards based on a news item in newspaper Deccan Herald on October 24, 2023 titled “Pollution control boards are the weak link”, Choubey told the Lok Sabha. 

The CPCB then submitted a report to the NGT based on the inputs provided by the SPCBs / Pollution Control Committees (PCC) on November 22, 2023. The NGT issued further issues on November 23, 2023 to SPCBs and PCCs to file their reports through the respective principal secretaries for the departments of environment and forests, the minister said.

Rising sea level

Sea-level rise is a slow phenomenon and varies globally depending on local site factors. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group I report released in August 2021, global mean sea level rose by 0.20 (0.15-0.25) metres between 1901 and 2018, Choubey told the Lok Sabha. 

The average rate of sea level rise was 1.3 (0.6-2.1) millimetres/year in 1901-1971, increasing to 1.9 (0.8-2.9) mm/year between 1971 and 2006 and further increasing to 3.7 (3.2 to 4.2) mm/year between 2016 and 2018, he said. 

In line with this global trend and based on the study by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services as well as the studies published in scientific literature, on average, at present, the sea level along the Indian coast is estimated to be rising at about 1.7 mm/year. It was observed that the sea levels are changing at different rates along the Indian coast, Choubey added.

Risk mapping of hilly areas in Himachal Pradesh

About 25-30 per cent of geographic area of Himachal Pradesh comprises of high to very high landslide susceptible zones, according to information provided by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, an autonomous institute of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, Choubey told the Lok Sabha. 

Further, as per information provided by the Himachal Pradesh government, about 32 per cent of the total geographical area of the state falls in Very high damage risk zone (Zone-V) in the seismic map of India and the remaining falls in high damage risk zones of earthquake, the minister added. 

With regard to floods, these are reported to be isolated in nature and caused mainly by high monsoon rains in the Shiwalik and lower- and mid- Himalayan range. Higher Hills comprising the districts of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti, Chamba and Kullu are particularly vulnerable to avalanches, according to the Himachal Pradesh government, Choubey informed.

Arsenic and fluoride levels in groundwater

Arsenic in groundwater samples has been reported in parts of 230 districts in 25 states, Bishweswar Tudu, minister of state for Union ministry of Jal Shakti told the Rajya Sabha. Fluoride contamination was found in parts of 469 districts in 27 states. 

Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) generates groundwater quality data of the country on a regional scale as part of its groundwater quality monitoring programme and various scientific studies, he said. These studies indicate the occurrence of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater beyond permissible limits (as per Bureau of Indian Standards) for human consumption in isolated pockets in various states / Union territories.

The groundwater contamination reported by CGWB is mostly geogenic in nature and has not shown significant change over the years, Tudu added.

Mapping of water-scarce villages

The Stage of Groundwater Extraction (SOE) or the ratio of total groundwater extraction for all uses to the annual extractable groundwater for the country as a whole stands at 59.26 per cent, Tudu told the Rajya Sabha. 

Out of the total 6,553 assessment units in the country, which are generally blocks / taluks / tehsils, 736 units (11.23 per cent of 6,553) have been categorised as ‘over-exploited (OE)’, where the SOE is more than 100 per cent, the minister said. 

Further, 199 units (3.04 per cent) have been categorised as ‘critical’ and 698 units (10.65 per cent) as ‘semi-critical’. Overall, 4,793 units (73.14 per cent) were under ‘safe’ category and 127 units (1.94 per cent) were ‘saline’, Tudu added.

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