Published On : Fri, Apr 14th, 2017

Are Koradi units that PM to open flouting green norms?

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Nagpur: At a time when concerns are raised over the environment hazard being posed by the newly set up thermal power generation units at Koradi, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be dedicating the same to public on Friday. If a report published in a local daily is to be believed these thermal generation units are functioning against the norms set by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC). These units do not have the mandatory pollution control equipment.

The daily quoted the experts as saying that Mahagenco, the state-run power generation company which operates the units, or Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) have blatantly manipulated figures to show that air pollution levels are well within limits. “This is endangering public health,” they say.

This media has also presented air quality monitoring figures at stack (emission from chimney) of Koradi Thermal Power Station (KTPS) which showed the recorded figures of concentration of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM) are much below the permissible limits. The SO2 figures have been contradicted by a senior Mahagenco official himself.

As per the analysis report of stack monitoring, the concentration of sulphur dioxide is between the range 5.71-12.57 microgram per normal metric cube (microgram/NM3) between January and March this year. Nitin Wagh, chief engineer (environment), informed that SO2 level was above the permissible limit of 200 microgram/NM3. “This is because we have not installed a flue gas desulphuriser (FGD) for the new unit numbers 8, 9 and 10. The tender will be floated within one month and we will meet MoEFCC norms by December 2017,” said Wagh.

The environmental clearance issued by MoEFCC to the project on January 4, 2010, said that Mahagenco was to install FGD for the new unit numbers 8, 9 and 10. The generation company, which had increased the project cost by Rs3,000 crore, refused to install a FGD saying the project cost would go up by Rs400 crore. This, in turn, would increase the power tariff.

The MPCB, which goes by the rule book in case of small industries, turned a blind eye towards this violation and gave KTPS its consent to operate.

Research by India Meteorological Department (IMD) and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology has revealed high concentration of SO2 can lead to acid rain. Prolonged exposure to high SO2 level can also cause diseases like cancer.

Data collected by IMD shows that Nagpur already receives acid rain. The frequency is likely to increase when the three new units start functioning at full capacity, especially if the FGD is not installed.

Not only SO2 levels but particulate matter (PM) levels as mentioned in the air quality analysis report for stack are questionable. Seeing the kind of air pollution that is caused due to the plant, experts say that the figures seem “relatively low” and “unrealistic”.

Air quality monitoring for thermal power stations is done in two parts — ambient air (pollutants present in surrounding areas) and stack monitoring (pollutants emitted from the stack). As per the standards set by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the permissible parameter for total particulate matter (TPM) is 50 milligrams per normal metric cube for thermal power plants installed before January 1 this year.

According to the analysis report of stack monitoring at KTPS for units 8 and 9, the TPM is well below the permissible limit. They range from 34.73 microgram/NM3 to 45.3 microgram/NM3. Environment experts however feel the data does not reflect the reality.

Debi Goenka, executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust who also did a study on thermal power plants of the country, said that the figures seem unrealistic if the intensity of emission is taken into account. “The monitoring done by MPCB is extremely poor and the pollution control measures that are actually in place are bypassed, creating a situation where the plant emissions are far above the permissible levels. But the figures can be manipulated on paper to make it lower,” said Goenka.