State’s thermal power projects face CSE warning

SHILLONG: The State Government is planning to start thermal power projects in Garo Hills, one by NEEPCO,  and another by DS Group, but the report released by the Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE)  on the side effects of  coal based power plants is a cause of worry   for Meghalaya .
While NEEPCO was allotted 500 MW thermal power project, DS  Group was given 240 MW project in Garo Hills by the State Government.
NEEPCO is yet to prepare the detailed project report, while DS Group has already acquired land and the detailed project report was also submitted, an official said.
However, CSE in India’s first-ever environmental rating of coal-based power plants finds the sector’s performance to be way below global benchmarks.
As per the CSE’s Green Rating Project, 47 plants, covering half of the sector and spread over 16 states were selected for rating. The sector scores poorly on all parameters getting a mere 23 per cent score compared to 80 per cent that a plant following all best practices can get; 40 per cent of the plants rated received less than 20 per cent score, the CSE report said.
According to the rating report card, inefficient use of resources and technological backwardness is leading to high levels of pollution.
Moreover, the plants are operating at 60-70 per cent capacity only. “If capacity utilization  is improved, sector can meet additional power requirement without building new plants”, the report said.
According to the report based on a two year long research, Indian coal-based thermal power plants are some of the most inefficient in the world.
In a statement issued on Saturday, CSE director general Sunita Narain said, “The objective of the study was to give a clear picture of the environmental performance of the sector. Our finding is that in India, where the demand for power is increasing, power plants are performing way below the global benchmarks. Given the rapid increase in coal-based power projected by the government, stress on precious resources like water and land will increase and air and water pollution will worsen, unless corrective measures are taken by the industry and policy-makers.”
Speaking about the rating programme, Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general, said: “The Green Rating Project is one of the very few public-disclosure projects in the world in which a non-governmental, non-industry  organisation rates the environmental performance of industries and makes the results public. The outcomes of our ratings have been used by companies as well as policymakers to improve policies and practices.”
As per the report, India’s thermal power plants are estimated to withdraw around 22 billion cubic metre of water, which is over half of India’s domestic water need.
Moreover, fly ash disposal remains a major problem. Presently, only about 50-60 per cent of the 170 million odd tonne of fly ash generated by the sector is “utilised”; the remaining is dumped into poorly designed and maintained ash ponds. Currently, about a billion tonne of these toxic ashes lie dumped in these ponds, polluting land, air and water. By 2021-22, the sector will produce 300 million tonne of fly ash every year, the report said.
Ash slurry, which has toxic heavy metals, was found in river and reservoirs of 20 plants. Test done by  CSE lab found that nearly 40 per cent of the plants did not meet the basic total suspended solid (TSS) norms for effluents discharged by them. 60 percent plants had not installed effluent and sewage treatment plants,  Thirty-six of the 47 plants were unable to meet the MoEF’s mandated target of utilising 90 per cent of the solid waste (ash) generated – average use was only 54 per cent.
The performance of the NTPC Ltd., the largest coal-power producing company in India, was found to be below par. NTPC did not disclose its data, and hence was rated based on a primary survey and publicly available information. The six plants of NTPC that were rated received scores of 16-28 per cent. The poorest of the lot was Delhi’s Badarpur plant.

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