India: The Fight for Clean Air

ELAW Bulletin
Ennore Thermal Power Plant, Chennai, India. Photo: By VtTN, via Wikimedia Commons.

Coal-fired power plants are making it hazardous to breathe in Chennai, a coastal city of more than 7 million in Tamil Nadu, India.
A report in this week's Indian Express includes the findings of ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Mark Chernaik:
Five air samples taken in Chennai in December and January reached a level of 'very unhealthy' and two of them 'hazardous' under the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index.
ELAW is working closely with Shweta Narayan at Community Environmental Monitors (CEM) to hold polluters accountable and protect communities in Tamil Nadu from hazardous air. CEM involves villagers in the fight against pollution by engaging them in environmental and health monitoring.
Mark's analysis revealed that air quality in Chennai is most heavily impacted by re-suspension of coal ash dust on roads, rather than vehicle emissions. Shweta shared this valuable information with Indian Express:
"Considering that aluminum, iron, calcium and silicon that are enriched in coal ash are also enriched in the Chennai dust samples, and given the cluster of coal-fired thermal plants in Ennore, it is reasonable to assume that coal ash dust is a significant contributor to Chennai's air pollution."
Shweta and her team are advocating for clean air, including policies that call for sweeping and watering paved roads to reduce the emissions of dangerous particulate matter.
The fight against polluting coal-fired power plants reaches across India.
Partners recently called on ELAW to critique draft standards put forward by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) that would weaken standards for thermal discharges from coastal coal-fired power plants that use once-through cooling.  The standards were originally drafted in 2015 and ELAW partners convinced the National Green Tribunal last month to stop the MoEFCC from granting exemptions that would have allowed new plants to avoid complying with strict emission limits in the original standards.  
We are pleased to be working with partners to challenge coal in India and around the world.
For more information, see:
Indian Express (February 6, 2018)
Air quality in Chennai 'unhealthy', levels of toxic metal 55 per cent higher than in 2017
The Times of India (January 18, 2018)
New thermal power plants will have to comply with emission standards: NGT

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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