TNPCB data shows that emissions from five out of eight thermal power units exceed the standard set by Environment Ministry.
TNPCB’s real-time data of air pollution shows that the emissions from five out of the eight thermal power units exceed the standard set for the suspended particulate matters (PM) of 2.5 microns causing pollution in the region.
North Chennai, particularly around Ennore, is dotted by coal-based thermal power plants. At present, eight thermal units – three units of 210 MW each in North Chennai Stage I, two units of 600 MW each in North Chennai stage II and 3 units of 500 MW each in Vallur – are under operation. They produce 3,330 MW in total.
According to the TNPCB’s realtime data, PM 2.5 emission level at North Chennai Stage I exceeds the standard limit of 100 milligram per cubic meter (mg/m3) by 23 per cent to 145 per cent. On Wednesday, unit I’s emission stood at 123 mg/m3 while unit II and unit III remained much higher at 186 mg/m3 and 245 mg/m3.
As against the emission norm of 50 mg/m3 for the thermal units above 500 MW, the North Chennai stage II, which has two units of 600 MW each, stood at 43 mg/m3 and 81 mg/m3 for unit I and unit II respectively. Out of the three units in the Vallur, which is a joint venture of Tangedco and NTPC, the emission level exceeded the standard value at only one unit.
Amid residents’ complaints of deteriorating air quality in Ennore, Tangedco continues to build new supercritical thermal power plants in the area. The work is underway to construct five more units with a total capacity of 3,440 MW in and around Ennore.
Leading pollution trackers said that Chennai’s air quality has deteriorated since Monday. According to aqicn.org, the count of fine particles (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns) Wednesday morning was 180, which is unhealthy, and it is forecast to stay such until the weekend. It is mainly in view of the unhelpful wind pattern, allowing pollutants to drift in from the North and hang in. To Chennai’s misfortune, the winds continue to be stubbornly indifferent.
Ennore and its adjoining areas have always been hit by a high level of pollution with the emissions from industries, including thermal power plants, affecting the quality of the air, said All Ennore Fishermen Federation vice president RL Srinivasan. “There has been a thick smog around Ennore in the past three days. It is certainly not the kind of fog which disappears once the sun comes out. But this smog continues to remain even under the hot sun and the visibility also is poor,” he said.
Pooja of Coastal Resource Centre said that the pollution in city got attention only after it was linked to the air quality in Delhi. “Several monitoring systems have shown that almost all thermal power plants in Ennore are exceeding the emission norms all throughout the year. The community has been asking to enforce emission norms for the last five years but the TNPCB has not taken us seriously. They just record the violations but don’t take action,” she said.
Pointing to the lack of localised pollution control measures like greenbelt, she said that none of the thermal power plants or ash ponds have greenbelts or any infrastructure to capture the pollution from the plants. “Given that all thermal plants are located in coastal areas, the fumes from the plants travels to the city with the wind. Two years ago, when a citizen-based monitoring was undertaken in Chennai and Ennore, we found similar profiles of pollution in places like Boat Club and Poes Garden compared to Ennore. It is an indicator that Chennai was and continues to be polluted by various sources, including coal-based thermal power stations,” she noted.
A senior Tangedco official said that the increased emission recorded at power plants was mainly due to the dust created by the ongoing thermal power plants construction. The official said that they had appointed a consultant to evaluate a methodology to be implemented for reducing emissions and adhere to the new and stringent environmental norms by 2022. The consultant would submit a report recommending methodology to install equipment to reduce emissions of Sulphur Dioxide, Oxides of Nitrogen and Particulate Matter.