NEW DELHI: India is the world's largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide, which is produced from coal burning, and greatly contributes to air pollution, a study claimed on Monday.
According to an analysis of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data released by environmental NGO Greenpeace on Monday, India has more than 15 per cent of all anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) hotspots in the world detected by the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite.
The major SO2 emission hotspots in India are Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh, Neyveli and Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Talcher and Jharsuguda in Odisha, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Kutch in Gujarat, Ramagundam in Telangana and Chandrapur and Koradi in Maharashtra.
The vast majority of plants in India lack flue-gas desulfurization technology to reduce their air pollution, according to the analysis.
The NASA data also highlights other hotspots across the globe, with the Norilsk smelter complex in Russia being the largest SO2 emission hotspot in the world, followed by Kriel in Mpumalanga province in South Africa and Zagroz in Iran.
However, as per country-wise world rankings, India was found at the top position in emitting SO2 as it has the maximum hotspots.
Environment experts called for strict action on coal power plants.
They said these plants should not be given a free hand to continue polluting and causing a health emergency situation in the country.
"We are facing an air pollution emergency and yet it is far from clear that power plants will meet even the extended deadlines to comply with pollution limits, both in Delhi and around the country." Pujarini Sen, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace, said.
The report said SO2 emissions are a significant contributor to air pollution.
The largest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels in power plants and other industrial facilities.
In December 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had introduced for the first time SO2 emission limits for coal power plants with an initial deadline to retrofit technology to control SO2 emissions from power generation by December 2017.
At the request of the Ministry of Power and power plant operators, this was later extended till December 2019 for power plants in Delhi-NCR and till 2022 for some other power plants across the country through a Supreme Court order, the NGO said.
According to the analysis, air pollution is a huge public health concern, with 91 per cent of the world's population living in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds guideline limits by the World Health Organization (WHO) and as a result, 4.2 million people die prematurely every year.