Five of the top 10 SO2 emission hotspots from coal/power generation industry across the world are in India, finds a Greenpeace study.
India is the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the world, contributing more than 15 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions, according to a new report by Greenpeace released on August 19, 2019.
The primary reason for India’s high emission output is the expansion of coal-based electricity generation over the past decade, the report added. Five of the top 10 SO2 emission hotspots from coal/power generation industry across the world are in India, read the Greenpeace report.
The analysis is based on hotspots detected by NASA Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) satellite data that captured more than 500 major source points of SO2 emissions across the globe including natural sources such as volcanoes.
However, the analysis excluded all natural sources and only anthropogenic sources of SO2 were investigated.
SO2 emissions are a significant contributor to air pollution. Its direct exposure and exposure to particulate matter PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) produced when SO2 reacts with other air pollutants to form sulphate particles both affect human health.
The greatest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels in power plants and other industrial facilities. Other sources include industrial processes such as extracting metal from ore, natural sources such as volcanoes, and locomotives, ships and other vehicles and heavy equipment that burn fuel with high sulphur content.
The study found the thermal power plants or clusters at Singrauli, Neyveli, Talcher, Jharsuguda, Korba, Kutch, Chennai, Ramagundam, Chandrapur, and Koradi to be the major emission hotspots in the country. The vast majority of plants in India lack flue-gas desulfurisation (FGD) technology to reduce air pollution, according to the report.
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had, for the first time, introduced SO2 emission limits for coal-fired power plants in December 2015. But a Supreme Court order changed the deadline for installation of FGD technology in power plants from 2017 to December 2019 in Delhi-NCR and till 2022 for other parts of the country.
In India, there has been an increase of SO2 emissions at already existing hotspots and new sites generating emissions are emerging across the country, added the report.
In fact, rising emissions have made India overtake China whose success in reducing emissions has also made Russia the number two emitter. China reduced their SO2 emissions through stringent emission norms and implementation of technologies like FGD.
When it comes to individual hotspots, the Norilsk smelter site in Russia continues to be the largest anthropogenic SO2 emission hotspot in the world, followed by the Kriel area in Mpumalanga province of South Africa, Zagroz in Iran, and Rabigh in Saudi Arabia. Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh is at number five.