Commission for Air Quality Management orders phase-out of coal in Delhi-NCR by January 1, 2023

Centre for Science and Environment calls the decision ‘significant’  

By Seema Prasad
Published: Wednesday 08 June 2022
A power plant in Gurugram, National Capital Region. Photo: iStock

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) has ordered the phasing out of coal from across Delhi and the National Capital from January 1, 2023.

The independent statutory body has imposed a widespread coal ban across energy-intensive industries in the NCR from October 1 this year for regions where piped natural gas (PNG) infrastructure and supply is already available.

Read: Coal’s end: DTE had predicted it in 2017

In those regions where PNG supply is still not available, the ban will come into effect from January 1, 2023, a statement by the CAQM said.

The statement noted:

Emissions from heavily polluting fuels like coal for various industrial, domestic and miscellaneous purposes contribute significantly to the degradation of air quality in the NCR and adjoining areas and accordingly a the consistent need has been felt to switch over to lesser polluting and cleaner fuel in the NCR. 

According to current estimates, 1.7 million tonnes of coal is used annually by industries in the NCR, and the fuel contributes significantly to the region’s air pollution levels.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, said the decision was significant.

She said: “The phasing out of coal as a fuel has to be incorporated into the next five-year plan across all sectors using coal. The alternatives are natural gas and biomass.”

As the phasing out of coal cannot practically happen overnight in thermal power plants, the ban excludes the usage of low-sulphur coal — a less harmful alternative with comparatively lower sulphur dioxide emissions.

The CAQM was established in August 2021 and replaced the now-dissolved Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control Authority). The body is currently the country’s highest authority on air pollution.

The Supreme Court’s order last year in Aditya Dubey vs Union of India listed construction activities, transport, coal-run power pants and nonessential industries as the main contributors to the NCR’s air pollution.

The court found that the commission had not indicated the broader steps to improve air quality, hence an expert group was formed. Suggestions were invited from the general public and experts, most of which suggested phasing out of coal in NCR.

“The Expert Group, in their report, also strongly recommended phasing out usage of heavily polluting fossil fuels like coal and mandating cleaner fuels, to the extent possible,” the statement added. 

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