CPCB drafts guidelines for decommissioning thermal power plants

In a first, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has prepared the draft guidelines for the decommissioning of thermal power plants.

Published: 28th August 2021 05:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2021 05:39 AM   |  A+A-

View of the Ennore power plant in Chennai | shiba Prasad sahu

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In a first, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has prepared the draft guidelines for the decommissioning of thermal power plants. Currently, India does not have any specific guidelines or protocols for scientific decommissioning of thermal power plants and the remediation of their sites. 

The guidelines, titled ‘Environmental Guidelines for Decommissioning a Coal/Lignite-Fired Power Plant’, were framed following the directions of the Southern Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT), according to sources. 

Power companies, prior to initiating decommissioning process, will be mandated to prepare an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) while going through several stages of approvals. The draft guidelines document details about how hazardous toxic materials like asbestos-containing material (ACM) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) should be dealt with. 

Dharmesh Shah, a petitioner in the case, told Express that power companies have a responsibility to safely dispose of hazardous and other wastes generated by them. “However, there is no statutory framework on the steps to be taken after a thermal power plant is decommissioned. Currently, there is no accountability. Remediation of site should be an integral part of decommissioning of such plans,” he said.

In 2015, the Union Environment Ministry issued a ‘Guidance document for assessment and remediation of contaminated sites in India’ as part of their National Programme for Rehabilitation of Polluted Sites in India. It, however, does not offer any regulatory regime for remediation of decommissioned power-plant sites even when there is enough evidence to indicate that these sites are contaminated with legacy heavy metals, which are toxic, and hazardous waste. 

An average thermal power plant uses several hazardous substances. Among them, the problematic ones are asbestosis and PCBs. Asbestosis ropes and clothes are used in many safety applications. The PCBs are a class of highly toxic oily liquids or solids categorised as persistent organic pollutants as they exist in the environment for a long time. 

The CPCB has submitted the draft guidelines before NGT, which has posted the case for September 16. 
According to the Central Electricity Authority, 102 units of 43 thermal power plants with a capacity of 10,002.88 MW were retired between April 2014 and March 2020. Furthermore, 35,949 MW of power plant infrastructure is more than 25-years-old and are bound to be decommissioned in the near future. 

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