The Delhi government Friday decided to shut down the Badarpur and Rajghat thermal power stations after they came under the scanner for emitting particulate matter (PM) above permissible limits.
The decision comes in the backdrop of a National Green Tribunal (NGT) directive in August this year. The NGT had ordered both stations to bring PM levels “within permissible limits” after an inspection report highlighted their high content in the ambient air around the projects. According to the report, PM levels in the Badarpur coal based plant’s IIA unit exceeded the standard of 150 mg/Nm3 some days of the year.
At the Rajghat plant, all units exceeded the standard of 150 mg/Nm3 most of the time. The report was collated by a team comprising officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and a representative from the environment ministry.
The two power plants came under the scanner after two stakeholders — the Delhi Power Procurement Group (DPPG) and the state-run State Load Dispatch Centre (SLDC) — had recommended phasing out of the two plants.
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“Environmental issues are being encountered in running the units at the Rajghat plant. The units have also outlived their usual life due to ageing and the efficiency of the plant has reduced. Last summer, the plant could not deliver 60 per cent of its capacity,” the forum had said.
On the 40-year old Badarpur plant, the discoms had stated that the plant should be shut down as it has already completed its “useful life”.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government is planning to move a proposal before the NGT to shut down the NTPC Dadri station.
This station is newer — with its coal-fired and gas-based units of 1,820 MW and 829 MW capacities — offering a degree of flexibility for the operator in terms of deploying the coal and gas units in tandem.
For Delhi, which has a peak load of around 6,000 MW, it is important to have a base-load thermal capacity/capacities of at least 3,000MW in its geographical proximity to ensure the possibility of islanding in the event of a crisis in the national grid.
The Dadri station is also important as its gas-based unit is equipped with quick-start gas turbines.
Severely polluted times, drastic measures
The Delhi government is not the first administration to experiment with drastic measures to curb alarming pollution levels. China, France, Mexico and the United Kingdom have adopted similar measures to combat urban air pollution and traffic congestion:
China: In the backdrop of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a system of road space rationing was implemented. Restrictions imposed on vehicles with odd and even license plate numbers in Beijing is estimated to have reduced about a third of typical vehicular traffic and led to 40 per cent reduction in emissions. The project was later modified and implemented on a permanent basis.
London: A similar system was adopted days before the 2012 Summer Olympics. In February 2013, a fee was imposed on motor vehicles within the Congestion Charge Zone in central London between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays. The congestion charge, £11.50 daily, has generated a net revenue of over £1 billion since 2003.
Paris: When pollution hit alarming levels in the city in 2014, road restrictions were imposed there and the government allowed only cars with odd number plates to ply on Monday. While the French government believed that this brought down pollution levels, some experts maintained that the findings were inconclusive.
Brazil: One of the first cities to introduce road space rationing was Sao Paulo in1996. With a fleet of 6 million vehicles in 2007, Sao Paulo was the largest metropolis in the world with such travel restrictions. The system was made permanent in 1997 to ease traffic congestion. Drivers caught breaking these restrictions face stiff penalties.
Mexico: With serious air quality problems in Mexico City, the city administration has, on some occasions, imposed the prohibition on more than one weekday.