About the Panel
As part of this seminar series, we have looked at three sources of air pollution: transport, crop burning, and municipal solid waste, and we now turn to a fourth significant source of air pollutants in the country – coal-based thermal power plants. They are responsible for the dramatic rise in pollutants such as SO2 and NOx in the country, particularly in industrial hotspots.
Power plant-specific emission standards for PM, SO2, NOx and mercury, introduced by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in 2015, were to be complied with in two years. By some estimates these could have reduced emissions from power plants by 70-85%. However, the Ministry moved the Supreme Court to relax its own deadline by five years, claiming that the standards were not attainable in two years.
As coal-based power plants generate about 75% of India’s electricity, regulation of emissions from power plants needs urgent attention. The panel will explore various aspects of this issue: what is the nature and scale of the problem; what is the governing regulatory eco-system; and what was the process of formulation of the 2015 emission norms? It will also deliberate the key challenges – political, economic and technical – in reducing power plant emissions and what is the role of the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, in regulating pollution from power plants.
About the Panelists:
Vinuta Gopal is a co-founder and director at Asar Social Impact Advisors Pvt Ltd, a consultancy company set up to provide advice, support and research data to forge an enabling environment for change on social and environmental issues. She has more than 15 years of experience in a campaigning and advocacy and led the climate and energy team in Greenpeace India during its formative years, leading them to some significant victories and new areas of work. During a difficult period in Greenpeace India, she also headed the organisation as the interim Executive Director and Program Director.
Priyavrat Bhati is Programme Director – Energy at Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. He led the team that published a study of the coal-based power sector, Heat on Power, which proposed several policy reforms and tighter pollution norms to improve the environmental and operating performance of the sector. He has closely worked with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and central regulators to draft new environment standards for the thermal power sector and to improve the monitoring and compliance framework. He has also advised policy makers on energy and environment issues in other countries including Indonesia, South Africa and Tanzania. Prior to joining CSE, he spent over two decades in investment banking.
Ritwick Dutta is an environmental lawyer and founder of the Legal Initiative of Forest and Environment (LIFE), an organisation working on issues of transparency and accountability in the field of environment protection. He has been involved in several environmental cases challenging regulatory approvals granted to projects and highlighting environmental impacts of development activities. Recently, he has been asked by the Supreme Court to assist it on the case relating to power plant pollution standards.
The discussion will be moderated by Shibani Ghosh, Fellow, Centre for Policy Research.
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