Use of charcoal as fuel will be banned across the National Capital Region (NCR) as of January 1, 2023, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) said Wednesday. Once the ban takes effect, coal can no longer be used for industrial or domestic purposes, but thermal power plants will be exempted from the ban. From October 1, 2022 onwards, a ban on the use of coal will apply in areas where Papua New Guinea’s infrastructure and supply are already in place.
Why was the use of coal banned?
The CAQM said in a note released Wednesday that coal dominates the industrial fuel in NCR and that industries in the region consume about 1.7 million tons of coal annually, “with about 1.4 million tons being consumed in six major industrial areas in the NCR alone.” The move aims to phase out the use of coal as a fuel to address air pollution concerns across the NCR.
According to the Source Allocation Study conducted by the Institute of Energy and Resources in 2018, which showed the contributions of the source for 2016, within the industrial sector contribution of 30 percent to the level of PM2.5 in winter in Delhi, industries using coal, biomass and coke and furnace oil contributed About 14 percent, while the brick manufacturing sector contributed 8 percent, power plants 6 percent, and stone crushers 2 percent. All 1,607 industrial units in Delhi have now switched to business in Papua New Guinea, according to the Delhi government.
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Is the ban likely to have an impact on NCR’s air quality?
Experts say it could help eliminate NCR’s use of dirty fuel. “If we want to clean up regionally, we need to get rid of all polluting fuels,” said Anumita Roychodhury, executive director of research and advocacy, Center for Science and Environment. She said coal is currently the dominant industrial fuel in NCR, and it is important to have clean fuels across sectors, while looking for significant reductions in air pollution levels.
Overall, from an air quality perspective, this move is desirable, said Karthik Ganesan, a fellow and director of research coordination at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. It is a move that will certainly have implications, because 1.7 million tons is a large amount of coal. It’s a large amount, but this number is spread over many entities that may use small amounts of coal for different purposes. Many of these companies may be micro, small, and medium. What would have been good was to go after the big companies, where the capital investment might be easier for them.
On the exemption granted for thermal power plants, Roychowdhury said it is possible for Delhi to shut down its coal power plants, but at the NCR level, there is a need to plan where the electricity will come from.
PM2.5 emissions attributable to industries in NCR are reasonably high. However, by the time these emissions make their way to Delhi, their impact diminishes. Ganesan said the impact of the coal ban would be a boon to areas outside the NCT as they bear the brunt of emissions, which degrade air quality locally.
What could be the challenges in implementing the ban, and what does that mean for industries currently working on coal?
“Implementation will involve thousands of small static sources, and compliance monitoring will be a much bigger challenge, compared to large sources,” Ganesan said.
Roychowdhury said gas pricing could be a critical area while trying to enforce the ban. Natural gas is now more expensive than coal. “If we can find the right pricing policy, industries will be ready to shift,” she said. She added that to enable proper implementation of the ban, infrastructure needs to be expanded along with building up supplies.
JN Mangla, president of the Gurgaon Industrial Association which has about 400 members, said the gas pipelines had not yet reached some places. Besides, switching to gas work would involve equipment changes that could be expensive. “It can be difficult to afford the equipment and it is important to support it,” he said. It may also be difficult to meet the deadline. “Industries will slowly be able to transform, but making the switch quickly can be difficult especially for small industries,” he added.
“The challenge will be the expenses,” Ganesan said. “For the entities, it can be difficult to determine the cost of the product when it comes to competing with manufacturers outside of the NCR. You will then have to make sure that these entities are compensated and that their ability to market the product in the NCR is not compromised by the cost. Gas ( Price) has broken through the roof, making this a double whammy. It will come as a challenge to small entities.”
In Haryana’s NCR districts, 408 of the 1,469 industrial units identified to convert to gas have made the switch, according to data from CAQM in August last year. In the NCR districts of Uttar Pradesh, 1,161 out of 2,273 industrial units converted to gas, while 124 out of 436 units in the NCR district of Rajasthan converted to gas.