The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain the Delhi government’s petition seeking directions to 10 allegedly polluting coal-based thermal power plants in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana to immediately stop operations till Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) technology is installed to reduce harmful emissions.
“We find it very amusing that a state has come in with a PIL against the Union of India,” a Bench led by Justice Navin Sinha said, thus forcing the Delhi government to withdraw its petition. The plea also sought quashing and setting aside of an order passed by the Central Pollution Control Board order that extended the deadline for installation of FGD to the thermal power plants.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Delhi government, said that sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are the “killer gases” and the matter relates to health of the citizens who are affected by pollution. The deadline for complying with emission norms should be closer as the problem of pollution is getting worse, he argued while seeking setting aside of the March 31 notification issued by the Union ministry of environment and forests amending/extending the timelines for complying with emission norms by coal-based power plants.
The petition also claimed that these power plants contributed about 5% to Delhi’s air pollution and hardly been any progress had been made despite many directions issued by the apex court and the National Green Tribunal.
“Delhi is undergoing an unprecedented health emergency due to rising levels of air pollution, the major contributors of which are the 10 coal fired power plants which operate within the 300-km radius of the capital region,” it said, adding that “a large number of deaths are attributed to the emissions from thermal power plants.”
It cited IIT Kanpur’s 2016 report – ‘Comprehensive Study on Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases in Delhi’ – to point out that 13 power plants in the radius of 300 km of Delhi, which also includes these 10 coal-fired thermal power plants, are expected to contribute significantly to air pollution in the city.
The plea also sought a direction to power plant operators and regulatory authorities, like Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Boards, to provide online continuous emission monitoring data in public domain.