Are Coal-Based Power Plants An Environmental Threat?

The most important source of carbon dioxide emissions are coal-based power plants. According to former union minister Jairam Ramesh, carbon dioxide emissions from power plants account for over half of its greenhouse emissions in India. He also highlighted the fact that sulphur dioxide emissions increased by 71% between 2005 and 2012. So, are coal-based power plants an environmental threat?

Nagraj Adve, member, India Climate Justice, said more than carbon dioxide, there are extreme effects of sulphur dioxide on children.

Manu Sharma, founder, Climate Revolution Initiative, added that while Jairam Ramesh is presenting the issue as a new concern, "it is known in India since the 1970s that sulphur dioxide has harmful effects. And we need to remember that pollution and emissions (carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide) are different concepts."

Adve pointed out that one ultra mega power plant will generate 576 tonne sulphur dioxide every day. "Technologies exist to minimise sulphur dioxide emissions. Basic questions are being raised on generation. Local people in areas where coal is mined and power is produced still don't have any facilities."

Sharma highlighted other points: "All our assumptions of growth are based on the continuous supply of cheap energy. It is generally forgotten that the increase in oil price over the last decade has been over 25 times that of the rise in the last five decades. So, there are indications that we need to power down. And we are completely dependent on fossil fuel."

Adve added: "Is it fair that Mr. Ambani's power bill every month is Rs 72 lakh while millions don't have access to electricity? We need to relook at where we are going and why. Urgency is somewhere missing in the debate on emissions."

He also had a word of caution: "The new Government is taking away some of the precautions. The crucial question is the growth trajectory and who will the power go to. What is going to take for people to understand the seriousness of the situation?"

And here are his suggestions: "It is time to think out-of-the-box for solutions. Germany has added photovoltaic power; it is possible here in India."

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