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Experts call for fund allocation, tougher regulations to fight pollution menace

CHENNAI: Air pollution remains a top concern in Chennai with the Particulate Matter (PM) levels rocketing several times above the permissible limit in recent times. In January, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the city was close to ‘poor’ for about 12 days post Pongal.

Real-time air monitoring data by Care Air Centre of the State Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) on Friday shows that oxides of Nitrogen emitted from NTPC Unit1 ranged between 569 and 950 mg/m3, more than thrice the accepted levels.

A TNPCB official told Express, “Not only Tamil Nadu, but units of almost all coal-fired power plant operators in India have missed the deadline for compliance to the 2015 NOx and SO2 limits. The power ministry has proposed extending the deadline by another two years, to enter into compliance by the end of 2021. We are constantly asking power plants to invest on emission checks.”

Chandra Bhushan, CEO of iFOREST said, “Not just Chennai, several other cities record increased pollution levels. It is now quite common to hear about poor air quality in the metropolitan cities. Around 12.5 per cent of total deaths in India are due to air pollution. Also, we are losing at least 5 per cent of our GDP due to this menace.”

He added that the government has to prioritise action on coal power plants and cooking fuel.

“My suggestion would be to announce a fiscal package to support power plants, to install pollution control equipment, and a programme to reduce cooking fuel consumption by 75 per cent over the next 5 years.”

Climate Trends, a Delhi-based climate communication initiative, analyses that Tamil Nadu has to stop any further coal power production.

“Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu account for more than half of the country’s Electricity Distribution Companies debt at Rs 43,562 crore. If emissions go unabated, it will sink our economic goals before they are even afloat,” Aarti Khosla, Director of Climate Trends said.

Shiva Nagendra from IIT Madras said that the government should allocate more funds under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to encourage research at the city level.

“Each city should have an emission inventory and pollution modelling be done to understand the sources of pollution for effective action,” he said.