The report comes as bad news for India – sulphur dioxide, a colourless, pungent-smelling gas, is a major pollutant and adversely affects human health.

India is the worlds largest emitter of SO2 Chennai at 29th position ReportImage For Representation
news Air Pollution Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 19:16

The latest report from environmental NGO Greenpeace has bad news for India – Chennai features as one among the major SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emission hotspots in the country. Chennai is the seventh-highest emitter of SO2 in India and is the 29th highest emitter in the world. Sulphur dioxide, a colourless, pungent-smelling gas and adversely affects human health.

The report that was published on Monday claims that the country is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) – all of which is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels like coal in power plants and other industrial facilities.

India ranks first in the list of SO2 emitters and the total amount of SO2 emissions from India is 4,586 kilotonnes per year, the report says. Russia comes second with 3,683 kilotonnes per year and China third with 2,578 kilotonnes per year. India has over 50 SO2 emitting hotspots on the list.

Based on data from NASA OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite, Greenpeace reports that in 2018, North Chennai Thermal Power Station in Chennai emitted 215 kilotonnes of SO2 per year. A decade ago, in 2008, it was 110 kilotonnes per year in the city. Singrauli district in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh topped the list with 507 kilotonnes emission per year.

Neyveli from Tamil Nadu comes second in the country, recording 393 kilotonnes of SO2 in 2018. Thoothukudi and Mettur are the other two that feature in the list of SO2 hotspots from the state.

Few other SO2 hotspots in the country include Talcher and Jharsuguda in Odisha; Korba in Chhattisgarh; Kutch in Gujarat; Ramagundam and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Chandrapur and Koradi in Maharashtra.

Sulphur dioxide is a maInhaling it and can be extremely dangerous and life-threatening. Higher levels of SO2 in the atmosphere also causes acid rain, haze. The primary sources of sulphur dioxide emissions are from fossil fuel combustion and natural volcanic activity.

A press release from Greenpeace quotes Pujarini Sen, Senior Campaigner, calling this an air pollution emergency. “This report makes it clear that we cannot give coal power plants a free hand to continue polluting and keep leading to health emergency situation in India due to air pollution. 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. This problem will only get worse if we ignore it – the government must act now and prioritise public health through strict action on polluters that fail to comply with the law,” he says.

In December 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had introduced for the first time SO2 emission limits for coal power plants in the country. The Supreme Court had then extended this deadline at the request of the Ministry of Power and power plant operators till December 2019 for power plants in Delhi-NCR and till 2022 for most other power plants across the country.

According to a response from the then Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mahesh Sharma, to a question asked at the Lok Sabha on the permissible level for pollutants the annual concentration of SO2 in ambient air, the concentration in industrial, residential, rural and other areas is 50 µg/m3.

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