Slack approach

By Sugandh Juneja
Published: Sunday 31 August 2008

Emission standards for sponge iron industry lack teeth

THE much awaited emissions standards for sponge iron plants have finally been notified. It took the environment ministry almost two and a half years. But it seems the period has taken a toll on the stringent guidelines of the draft, initially released in March 2006.

While the initial draft had detailed guidelines, the notified draft is lenient, particularly towards fugitive emissions, which is a major environmental issue associated with sponge iron industry. It has raised permissible levels for fugitive emissions from 1,000 microgram/cubic metre (g/m3) to 3,000 g/m3 for existing units and to 2,000 g/m3 for new units. A major alteration in the notified draft is the specification for minimum stack height of sponge iron plants. While the initial draft advocated for a minimum height of 75 m, the new version has brought it down to 30 m, with subsequent classifications based on the so2 load. "Coastal and hilly areas have long been protesting against low stack heights," says Rifat Mumtaz of the National Centre for Advocacy Studies. Another point of conflict: it does not mention solid waste. The initial draft recognized char, kiln depositions, scrubber sludge and flue dust as solid waste and suggested recycling measures. It also misses out on the noise standards. A Central Pollution Control Board official says: "The committee at the ministry may alter the proposed standards in anyway they wish." The ministry officials refused to comment.

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