Out of sight – how coal burning advances India’s air pollution

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This 32-page report by Greenpeace India provides a detailed analysis of how the rapid expansion of coal-fired power generation over the last decade has contributed to India’s rapidly growing air pollution crisis.

While the debate about air pollution in India continues to focus on visible pollution sources inside cities, rapid growth in coal-based thermal power generation, largely out of sight of urban Indians, is one of the key drivers of the crisis.

This report exposes the largest air pollution emission hotspots and largest sources of SO2 and NO2 emission growth in India from 2009 to 2015 by analysing satellite data. The analysis shows respective increase of 13% and 31% for PM2.5 and SO2 levels from 2009-2015. Earlier research on regional trends has identified a 20% increase in NO2 levels using the same data.

Identification of hot spots clearly indicates that large industrial clusters are the dominant sources of SO2 and NO2 emission growth, with huge capacities of new coal-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) as the main driver. The secondary particulates formed from aerosols like SO2 and NOx are key cause of the recent increase in PM2.5 levels, which is causing damage to human health and creating potentially a health emergency situation in India.

Many researches on air pollution as well the recent IIT Kanpur study on Delhi’s air pollution has highlighted thermal power plants being the biggest source of SO2 and NOx emission growth in India. The case study in the report establishes clear links between increase in coal consumption and air pollution levels in specific hotspots like Singrauli, Korba – Raigarh, Angul, Chandrapur, Mundra and NCR.

This study emphasises on the urgent need to comply with the thermal power plant emission standards announced in December 2015 in order to solve the air pollution crisis faced by Delhi and many other parts of the country.

The study also highlights the big sources of pollution over the larger geographical area where attention is urgently required to come up with a comprehensive and systematic National Action Plan on air pollution with time bound actions.

Read the full report here