A public campaign called Air Offenders of India was launched by more than 25 environmental groups recently to highlight delays in implementation of air quality standards in coal-fired thermal power plants across the country.
“With each day we delay the emissions norms, we reduce the life expectancy of our citizens by a few days. We must prioritise efforts for clean air for the health and well-being of Indians,” said Dr Arvind Kumar, founding trustee, Lung Care Foundation, one of the groups that launched the campaign.
According to the campaign, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change gave a two-year deadline to coal power companies in 2015 to adhere to new air pollution control norms. By December 2017, 300 coal power plants across India should have installed scrubbers, filters and flue gas de-sulphurisation (FGD) technology to control emissions (particulate matter, SO2 and NOx) on burning of coal. According to a recent analysis by the Centre for Research on Clean Energy and Air, only 1 per cent of power plants have implemented these norms since 2015. While this decision was applauded at the time as signifying India’s commitment to clean its air, implementation has been delayed since 2017 and now further relaxed till 2022.
According to Health Effects Institute’s State of Global Air 2020 report , long term exposure to air pollution contributed to 1.67 million deaths in 2019 in India.