With the air quality index hovering in the 'poor' and 'very poor' categories in Delhi over the last few days, the Delhi government on Wednesday wrote to the Centre urging it to shut down all 11 thermal power plants in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Delhi Power Minister Satyendar Jain wrote the letter to his counterpart at the Centre, RK Singh. “Pollution from thermal power plants in the vicinity of Delhi (300-km radius) is one of the reasons for Delhi's toxic air. Overall, the worst offenders are coal-based thermal power plants around Delhi,” the minister wrote.
Quoting a 2013 study, Jain said power plants contribute nearly 80% of sulphates and 50% nitrates to the receptor concentration.
The 11 power plants in NCR -- National Capital Thermal Power Station in Uttar Pradesh, Guru Hargobind Singh Thermal Power Station, Guru Govind Singh Super Thermal Power Station, Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd, Rajpura Thermal Power Plant in Punjab, Aravalli Power Com. Pvt. Ltd , Panipat Thermal Power Station, Rajiv Gandhi Thermal Power Project, Deen Bandhu Chotu Ram Thermal Power Station in Haryana, Harduaganj Thermal Power Station in Uttar Pradesh and the Singareni Thermal Power Project -- collectively generate 12,250 MW of power.
Citing the spread of COVID-19, Jain said the upcoming winters might aggravate the pandemic if the pollution levels are not kept under control. He also noted that the Delhi government had shown the path by shutting down its own power plants.
Later, addressing a press conference later, the minister said these plants were the biggest contributors to Delhi’s pollution crisis. He also said that the Kejriwal government was the only one in the states which had shut down all its three thermal power plants.
Citing a Supreme Court order from 2015, Jain accused the central government of intending to allow two more years to the power stations in 2019 despite the apex court's order. He said that shutting down the 11 power plants will make a difference in Delhi's pollution crisis.
"In a bid to bring down the NCR pollution, the Delhi government shut down the Indraprastha power plant in 2009, Rajghat plant in 2015, and Badarpur plant in 2018 due to increased environmental concerns," the minister said. "Delhi is the only state where no thermal power station is running."
Jain said the Central Polllution Control Board (CPCB) sent penalty notices to 35 non-compliant electricity generators in 15 coal-fired thermal power stations on May 8, 2020. “These generating stations were found to be non-compliant with the new emission norms introduced by the central government in 2015. It is further learnt the Centre is considering deferring the deadline by two more years for thermal power plants to comply with norms to reduce air pollution'.
Jain said also the Dadri power station, which causes immense pollution in the city despite crossing its threshold of completing 25 years, will allegedly be renewed by the central government.
"Stubble-burning and power plants are the biggest contributors to the harmful air in Delhi. On air quality, every step counts," Jain said.
"Delhi has alternative sources to generate power and there is no lack of it even during the peak hours. So, these thermal plants can be closed as it will not lead to reduction in power supply."