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Explained: Coal use to be banned in NCR, what impact could this have?

The use of coal as a fuel will be banned across the National Capital Region from January 1, 2023. What is the reason for this? Will it have an impact on air quality? What could be the challenges in enforcing the ban?

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
June 10, 2022 12:43:44 pm
Thermal power plants will be exempted from the coal ban in NCR. (Express Photo/File)

The use of coal as a fuel will be banned across the National Capital Region (NCR) from January 1, 2023, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) said on Wednesday. Once the ban is in force, coal can no longer be used for industrial or domestic purposes, but thermal power plants will be exempted from the ban. From October 1, 2022 onward, a ban on coal use will be applicable in areas where PNG infrastructure and supply is already available.

Why has the use of coal been banned?

The CAQM said in a note issued on Wednesday that coal dominates industrial fuels in the NCR and industries in the region consume around 1.7 million tonnes of coal annually, “with about 1.4 million tonnes being consumed in six major industrial districts of NCR alone”. The move is meant to phase out the use of coal as a fuel to deal with concerns of air pollution across the NCR.

According to a source apportionment study done by The Energy and Resources Institute in 2018, which showed source contributions for the year 2016, within the 30 per cent contribution of the industrial sector in PM2.5 level in winter in Delhi, industries using coal, biomass, pet-coke and furnace oil contributed around 14 per cent, while 8 per cent was contributed by the brick manufacturing sector, 6 per cent by power stations, and 2 per cent by stone crushers. All 1,607 industrial units in Delhi have now switched to running on PNG, according to the Delhi government.

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Is the ban likely to have an impact on air quality in the NCR?

It could help chip away at the use of dirty fuel in the NCR, experts say. “If we want a regional-level clean-up, we need to get rid of all dirty fuel,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment. Coal is currently the dominant industrial fuel in the NCR, and it is important to have clean fuel across sectors, while looking for significant reduction in air pollution levels, she said.

Overall, from an air quality perspective, the move is desirable, said Karthik Ganesan, fellow and director of research coordination at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. “It is a move that will definitely have implications, since 1.7 million tonnes is a sizable amount of coal. It is a big quantum, but that number is distributed among many entities, which may be using small amounts of coal for various purposes. Many of these might be MSMEs. What would have been good is to go after the top ones, where capital investment might be easier for them,” he said.

On the exemption given to thermal power plants, Roychowdhury said it was possible for Delhi to shut down its coal power plants, but at the NCR level, there is a need to plan where electricity will come from.

“The PM2.5 emissions attributable to industries in the NCR is reasonably high. However, by the time these emissions make their way to Delhi their impact is reduced. The impact of the coal ban will be a boon for the regions outside NCT as they are bearing the brunt of the emissions, which locally worsen air quality,” Ganesan said.

What could be the challenges in enforcing the ban, and what does it mean for industries currently running on coal?

“The implementation will involve thousands of small point sources, and compliance monitoring will be that much more of a challenge, when compared to large sources,” Ganesan said.

Pricing of gas could be a critical area while trying to enforce the ban, Roychowdhury said. “Natural gas is now more expensive than coal. If we can find the correct pricing policy, industries will be willing to shift,” she said. To enable proper implementation of the ban, infrastructure needs to be scaled up along with building the supply, she added.

J N Mangla, president of the Gurgaon Industrial Association which has around 400 members, said pipelines for gas were yet to reach some places. Besides, switching over to operating on gas will involve changes in the equipment that can be expensive. “The expenses for the equipment can be difficult to bear and subsidising it is important,” he said. The deadline could also be difficult to meet. “Slowly, industries will be able to switch, but making the switch quickly could be difficult particularly for small industries,” he added.

Ganesan said, “The challenge will be of expenses. For the entities, product costing could be difficult when it comes to competing with manufacturers outside the NCR. You will then have to ensure these entities are compensated and their ability to market the product in the NCR is not compromised on account of the costing. Gas (price) has shot through the roof, which makes this a double whammy. It will come as a challenge for small entities.”

In the NCR districts of Haryana, 408 industrial units out of 1,469 identified for shifting to gas had made the switch, according to data from the CAQM in August last year. In the NCR districts of Uttar Pradesh, 1,161 industrial units out of 2,273 had shifted to gas, while 124 units out of 436 in the NCR area of Rajasthan had shifted to gas.

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First published on: 10-06-2022 at 12:43:44 pm
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