Penalise those spoiling ambient air quality: NITI Aayog

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 17, 2019

The thick haze in New Delhi has taken a toll on all residents . NITI Aayog has recommended a penalty of 5-10 per cent of the project cost on individuals and organis ations violating the norms   -  Kamal Narang

The think-tank has also recommended more funds for monitoring air quality and faster allocation and dispatch of coal to power plants using cleaner tech

In a four-pronged solution, government think-tank NITI Aayog and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) have released the report of the ‘Task Force on Clean Industry’ to tackle Delhi’s air pollution crisis.

NITI Aayog has recommended that mandatory contractual obligations be introduced on clean construction for all individuals and organisations. In the report, it has also emphasised mandatory fund allocation for ambient air quality management in cities not complying with Ambient Air Quality Standards.

It has held that Building Code and building by-laws should be strengthened for ensuring ambient air quality during ‘construction and end-of-life,’ in accordance with specific criteria for population density in receptor area and ambient air quality data.

Two-tier mechanism

NITI Aayog has suggested a two-tier mechanism for penalties. Urban local bodies (ULBs) should use portable emission monitoring devices and low-cost sensors for measuring air quality and levy penalties of 5-10 per cent of the project cost on individuals and organisations.

It also recommended that State Pollution Control Boards in the National Capital Region (NCR) levy a penalty on local bodies and authorities in lieu of the estimated cost of damage.

Within 300 km of Delhi, there are 56 coal-based thermal units of which 15 are in the process of being phased out and closed in the near future due to non-availability of space for Flue Gas Desulphurisation (FGD). NITI Aayog has said that all of the rest are supposed to retrofit FDG by 2019, except one in Uttar Pradesh which is expected to do so by 2021.

It stated that priority status should be given to cleaner gas-based thermal power units and coal-based thermal power units with advanced emission controls for sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. The Indian Grid Electricity Code (2010) should thus be amended.

An Inter-ministerial Sub Group constituted by the Infrastructure Constraints Review Committee, headed by Joint Secretary (Coal), must issue a guideline to the Railways and Coal India to prioritise the allocation and transportation of coal to the cleaner power producers based on priority dispatch order requirement.

Utilising ‘bottom’ ash

NITI Aayog has noted that roughly, 20 per cent of the total ash which gets generated during combustion at a thermal power plant is bottom ash, which is coarse ash that gets collected at the bottom of the boiler.

It has been highlighted by task force members that there is limited availability of viable options for utilising the bottom ash from such plants. As per member inputs, at least one global technology player claims to have used the bottom ash and fly ash in a ratio of 3:1 but the technology is yet to be tested on Indian ash. More research and development will be required in future to utilise bottom ash for value added products besides its application for road construction, mine-filling and for filling low lying areas. Other recommendations include leapfrogging to advanced (up to 50 per cent) biomass co-firing in coal power plants in north-west region. Co-firing is a near term, low-cost option for efficiently converting biomass to electricity by adding it as a partial substitute fuel in high-efficiency coal boilers.

NITI Aayog has observed that commercial feasibility of enhanced co-firing is still being evaluated at this stage. Paddy-straw that remain unutilised and burnt in the North-West India has the potential to generate about 6,000-8,000 MW or 45,000 million units (m-kWh) of electricity annually, it has been noted.

It added that the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is currently piloting torrefaction of rice-straw in Punjab in partnership with a Swedish agency.

Torrefaction is a thermal process which converts biomass into a coal-like material. Torrefied biomass, once piloted and proved in existing coal power stations in the region, can pave the way for large-scale utilisation of biomass (up to 50 per cent) without significant cost towards retrofit technology.

Published on November 17, 2019

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