Amid rising pollution, Supreme Court upholds petcoke ban in three states
Industry groups had petitioned for a review of the ban, stating that many factories would face closure in the absence of their main source of fuel.Updated: Nov 13, 2017 15:41 IST
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to lift a ban on the use of petcoke – a highly polluting fuel – at industrial units across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana.
The apex court had prohibited the use of petcoke from November 1, following which industry groups petitioned for a review on the grounds that many factories would face closure in the absence of their main source of fuel.
Petcoke is used in power plants and blast furnaces, besides cement factories, dyeing units, paper mills and brick kilns, owing to its ability to generate high levels of heat. This advantage, however, is accompanied by a host of undesirable factors – including the generation of high levels of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury, arsenic, chromium and nickel.
Petcoke was banned in Delhi as early as 1996, but its surrounding states continued to use it.
The United States is a leading supplier of sulphur-rich petcoke to India. American exports of the dirty fuel to India increased by nine times between 2011 and 2016. A recent study reveals that the South Asian country may already have displaced China as the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide emissions, a byproduct of petcoke use.
Emissions of the toxic gas in India have increased by 50% since 2007, the report says.
The imposition of carbon cess on coal in 2010 resulted in many industries and thermal plants switching to the more polluting petcoke, fuelling domestic demand. The use of the fuel in India doubled between financial years 2013 and 2017, Mint reported this month.
In 2013, the United States cracked down on the use of petcoke by industries – resulting in more availability of the fuel for export. Though China initially emerged as the primary importer, it backed down over pollution concerns in the years that followed. Consequently, India became the biggest buyer of the fuel by 2016.
When India transitioned to Bharat Stage IV fuel earlier this year, one of the major initiatives taken for environmental protection was a significant lowering of the limit for sulphur in fuels to 50 ppm (parts per million). A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) analysis of petcoke showed that some samples have sulphur content as high as 74,000 ppm.
According to the CSE, the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) has only incentivised the use of petcoke and furnace oil. Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the centre, said though the two fuels figured in the 18% GST bracket because industries showed that they were being used in manufacturing, the taxed amount was later reimbursed.