Delhi-NCR coal ban: Industrial units complain of soaring gas prices, difficulty to meet emissions standards

Centre for Science and Environment spoke with industrial associations about their experience of moving away from coal

By Parth Kumar
Published: Tuesday 03 January 2023
Photo: iStock

The ban on the use of coal and other unapproved fuels in the Delhi-National Capital Region completely came into force from January 1, 2023. But the implementation was not without challenges.

The ban was announced by the central government’s Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) June 23, 2022, when the commission put out a standard list of approved fuels for various applications across NCR. 

The list excluded coal, except low-sulphur coal in thermal power plants and metallurgical coke in stand-alone cupola-based foundries. 

The ban came into effect from October 1, 2022 for areas where piped natural gas supply is already available.

Experts from the Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) spoke to industry operators to understand how they are coping with the ban. 

Till 2020, around 1.4 million tonnes of coal was being used by industries in six major industrial districts of Delhi-NCR: Panipat, Alwar (including Bhiwadi), Sonipat, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Gurgaon, according to CSE’s study Assessment of Industrial Air Pollution in Delhi-NCR.

In the report, CSE had also advocated for having a common fuel policy for the whole of NCR and had advocated for pushing out coal from the whole of NCR. The organisation had welcomed CAQM's on the same in June, 2022.

Coal usage in the small boilers of several small-scale textile industries of Panipat was one of the major air pollution contributors to the district in 2020, the study flagged. 

As of now, “out of the 488 fuel-consuming industries in Panipat, 27 have shifted to gas, six are using electricity, two are using LHS, 39 using metallurgical coke and the rest have shifted to biomass”, the regional officer of the state pollution control board, Panipat, told CSE. “All industries in Panipat have shifted to approved fuels now,” he added.

Despite this total shift, the industrial units in Panipat are faced with multiple challenges, said Bhim Rana, president, Panipat Textile Dyers Association and president, Haryana Environment Management Society. He added:

The use of PNG has made the textile industries in Panipat uncompetitive with other textile hubs of the country like Ludhiana and Surat. This economic non-feasibility has led to closure of 60-70 industries in Panipat since October 2022. Many units are even considering moving out of NCR to remain competitive in the market.

Biomass, which is being used as an alternative, has its own set of challenges as a fuel, said Rana. “We are not able to meet the new emissions standards with the use of biomass as a fuel. Not being able to do that puts us at the risk of facing a fine of up to Rs 1 crore or five years of jail or both, if any time a manual monitoring is conducted by the authorities”. 

“The availability of biomass and its storage space are other issues they face as small-scale industries,” Rana said. “This leaves us with no choice but to plan relocation of our units outside NCR.”

Discussions with industrial associations in other districts of NCR revealed many small-scale industries also continue to use wood as a fuel. 

“As the emphasis is majorly on coal, it needs to be understood that even wood is not a CAQM-approved fuel for industries and any such misconception among the industries needs resolution by the state board officials and industrial association,” Nivit Kumar Yadav, director, industrial pollution unit, CSE, said.

“It’s a historic initiative that CAQM has taken by pushing out a number of dirty fuels from the approved fuel list of NCR,” Yadav added.

But to be able to implement it effectively on ground, issues like soaring prices of PNG and not being able to meet the new emissions standards through biomass need serious deep assessment and action, the expert said.

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