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Centre rejects study which claims India is world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide

The Environment Ministry on Saturday rejected the findings of a study which claimed that India is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) and informed the Rajya Sabha that 18 units for flue-gas desulphurization were installed in the country.

Congress MP Ripun Bora had sought to know whether the government is aware that India is the largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide from coal burning which causes air pollution.

In his reply, Union Minister of State for Environment Babul Supriyo said, “No sir, it has been reported in one of the study of environmental NGO Greenpeace that India is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) and coal-based thermal power plants are the major contributors. Government facts do not agree to this.”

He said the ministry, through its December 2015 notification, stipulated norms for emission of sulphur dioxide from thermal power plants apart from other pollutants.

“There was no SO2 emission norms for coal-based thermal power pants prior to this notification and regulated through stipulating the height of discharge/emittance through fixing height of chimney,” Supriyo said in a written response.

Asked whether India has flue-gas desulphurization technology installed in coal plants that will help in reduction of air pollution, the minister said two of the commonly acceptable technology for flue-gas desulphurization of coal-based thermal power plants — wet scrubbing in alkaline media and dry sorbent injection (DSI) — are installed in India.

“As on August 31, 2020, 16 units on wet scrubbing and two units on DSI technology are installed for de-sulphurisation of flue gas from coal-based thermal power plants,” Supriyo said.

According to the data, of the 16 wet-scrubbing units, eight are in Maharashtra, three in Gujarat, two each in Haryana and Tamil Nadu and one in Madhya Pradesh. The two DSI units are in Uttar Pradesh.

In August last year, a study by environment NGO Greenpeace India had claimed that India is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide, which is produced from coal burning, and greatly contributes to air pollution.

The Greenpeace India has released an analysis of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data saying India has more than 15 per cent of all anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) hotspots in the world detected by the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite.

“The major SO2 emission hotspots in India are Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh, Neyveli and Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Talcher and Jharsuguda in Odisha, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Kutch in Gujarat, Ramagundam in Telangana and Chandrapur and Koradi in Maharashtra.

“The vast majority of plants in India lack flue-gas desulfurization technology to reduce their air pollution,” it had said.

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