Maha to undertake study for phasing down coal-fired power plants: Aaditya Thackeray

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In an important decision, the Maharashtra government on Monday announced to undertake a comprehensive study to help determine the phasing down of coal-fired power plants in a systematic manner.

“We will undertake a comprehensive study to determine how ageing and polluting coal-fired power plants may be phased down in a systematic manner. An audit of all power plants in Maharashtra for pollution control measures will be conducted. Thermal power plants not meeting the prescribed standards will face decisive action,” said Aaditya Thackeray, who’s the state’s Environment Minister.

He announced this after visiting Nandgaon that has been facing adverse impact due to thermal plant and ash pond located near the Khaparkheda Thermal Power Station (KTPS).

The decision by the Maharashtra government is significant given that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, during the Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow last November, declared a Net Zero target by 2070.

Considering the growing need for energy, India had insisted on ‘phasing down’ coal consumption rather than ‘phasing out’, much to the chagrin of the richer, developed countries.

Of Maharashtra’s current installed capacity of 13,602 MW, coal-fired thermal power accounts for as high as 75 per cent or 10,170 MW, according to Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (MAHAGENCO) statistics.

The state-owned thermal power stations include Chandrapur, Koradi, Khaperkheda, Nashik, Parli, Bhusawal and Paras.

Thackeray said that he visited Nandgaon, near Nagpur, after receiving multiple complaints from the local people, especially women, and declared that the ash pond be restored to its original state within 15 days.

He also announced that the ash bunds at Nandgaon and Waregaon, another place nearby, would be permanently shut.

He added that pollution control measures, including installation of flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) for air pollution, will be set up at all the power plants across the state, starting with Koradi-Khaperkheda.

“We will ensure 100 per cent fly ash utilisation as per Central government norms. The fly ash will also be used for infrastructure projects,” he said.

The residents of Nandgaon hailed the decision.

“I applaud the minister’s decision to halt ash disposal at Nandgaon. My biggest fear remains the flooding that this ash bund is causing in our community and on the fields. People whose farms are outside the ash bund are all affected. For a long time, the entire community has been in misery,” said Sonali Manoj Varkhade, the sarpanch of Nandgaon.

Leena Buddhe from the Centre for Sustainable Development that had conducted a water pollution study with Manthan Adhyayan Kendra and Asar recommending an immediate halt to the discharge of pollutants from the power plants and ash ponds, accompanied Thackeray during his visit to Nandgaon.

“What happened in Nandgaon is historic as no minster had ever taken such a strong stand against power plants causing pollution,” Buddhe said.

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