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Monday, October 18, 2021

Thermal plant closure on the cards when air quality worsens: Panel

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) is learnt to have held discussions with power distributors in this regard.

Written by Shivnarayan Rajpurohit | New Delhi |
September 19, 2021 2:39:04 am
It has directed other states to follow this model, data of which is relayed to the respective pollution control boards and the Central Pollution Control Board. (File)

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) is deliberating partial or complete shutdown of thermal power plants in Delhi-NCR, as part of its emergency measures when air pollution hits its peak in winter, The Indian Express has learnt.

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) is learnt to have held discussions with power distributors in this regard. “Even if power production is cut by thermal power plants, the gap could be filled by renewable energy sources,” said a CAQM member.

The emergency measure will be taken depending on pollution source data fed by a modelling portal called Decision Support System, said the member. This is likely to be operational by October.

The incremental step was part of the now dissolved Environ-ment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority’s Graded Action Plan until 2020. The member said some other measures of GRAP could be retained in the coming post-harvest season.

The reconstituted 18-member CAQM was set up by the Centre in April and can issue directions “for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of air in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas” in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan.

Another regional action plan suggested by the statutory body is asking coal-based industries to switch to cleaner PNG. “Delhi and UP have achieved their target. However, there are supply hurdles in Rajasthan and Haryana. We are in touch with them to resolve it,” said the member.

According to a CAQM direction in August, 408 of the 1,469 identified industrial units in Haryana and 124 of the 436 units in Rajasthan had switched to gas.

CAQM has asked state governments to expedite incentive-based e-vehicle policy. “The share of two-wheelers in Delhi’s air pollution is substantial. With EV policies in place, incremental gains could be achieved in the next four-five years. We expect these states to soon announce their policy,” said the member.

Last year, Delhi had launched incentives for electric vehicles. As per a 2015 IIT-Kanpur study, road dust accounts for 38% of Delhi’s PM 2.5 load, followed by vehicles (20%), domestic (12%) and industrial point sources (11%).

On stubble burning, share of which in Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution rose to 40% last year, the member said the commission is focusing on in-situ management measures through farm machinery or the recently introduced bio-decomposer. “The ex-situ management will take time. And the Punjab government is identifying collection points from where bales could be taken to end points for briquets or pellets,” said the member.

To control dust pollution, the commission has taken a cue from the Noida model under which self-reporting and measuring of air pollution before and after major construction by companies is mandatory. It has directed other states to follow this model, data of which is relayed to the respective pollution control boards and the Central Pollution Control Board.

CQMS Action Plan

— Partial or complete shutdown of thermal power plants in the NCR region as an emergency measure in winter

— Asking states to speed up EV policy

— Directing coal-based industries to switch to PNG

— Self-reporting by construction agencies to cut dust pollution

— In-situ management of crop residue until collection point infrastructure is ready

— Decision Support System, a real-time forecasting model on pollution sources. It will be upgraded by next year after which even ward level pollution sources could be identified

— Ban on vehicles entering Delhi without RFID tags

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