Maharashtra has the highest number of coal-fired power plants, emitting the most pollutants in the country.
Consuming 71.5 million tonnes of coal between 2011 and 2012 to generate 17,560MW electricity, the state's 13 coal-fired plants emitted more pollution than 98 other plants across India. Barring particulate matter, where the state stood second to Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra ranked first in the emission of all other pollutants, according to 'Coal based thermal power plants in India - An assessment of atmospheric emissions, particulate pollution and health impacts'.
The study found that in the same period, Maharashtra released 3.5 lakh tonnes sulphur dioxide, 2.78 lakh nitrogen dioxide, 1.56 lakh tones carbon, 14,500 tonnes volatile organic compounds and 94.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. Except for permissible limits for PM2.5 and PM10 (particulate matter) for coal plants, there are no standards for other pollutants.
A meteorology analysis also found pollutants discharged from stacks can get transported 50-100km away from the plant, affecting health and environment.
According to environmentalists, environment impact assessment (EIA) for coal plants needs an overhaul, and must include 3D air modeling studies. "These studies can study the dispersal of emissions horizontally, vertically and diagonally around coal plants," said Debi Goenka, founder, Conservation Action Trust (CAT), who along with Delhi-based UrbanEmissions.info and Greenpeace, conducted the study.
The study said that from 2011 to 2012, India's 111 coal plants generated 580 kilo tonnes PM2.5, 2,100 kilo tonnes suphur dioxide, 2,000 kilo tonnes nitrogen oxide, 1,100 kilo tonnes carbon monoxide, 100 kilo tonnes volatile organic compounds and 665 million tonnes carbon dioxide.
Only some coal plants have installed Electro Static Precipitators (ESP) to collect particles and Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) to remove sulphur dioxide from gases. "Coal power companies have no incentives use pollution control technologies without aggressive regulations," said Puja Jawahar, co-founder, UrbanEmissions.info.