Air pollution is a growing concern in India, with cities and towns across the country experiencing worsening air quality. In the northern state of Haryana, the Panipat Thermal Power Station has been identified as a major contributor to the problem. Recent studies have found that the air around the thermal station contains high levels of nickel and benzene. They are two toxic pollutants that can have serious health effects.
The Panipat Thermal Power Station: An Overview
The Panipat Thermal Power Station is owned by the Haryana Power Generation Corporation Limited (HPGCL) and has a capacity of 1,500 megawatts. The plant operates using coal as its primary fuel source. Further, is one of the largest thermal power plants in India. The thermal power station is located in the city of Panipat in the northern state of Haryana. Panipat is approximately 90 kilometers from the national capital, New Delhi. The station is situated in a densely populated area, with several residential colonies and educational institutions nearby. The region is also home to several other industrial plants, including an oil refinery and a fertilizer factory.
The station has been the subject of several environmental violations in the past, including air and water pollution. The plant has been fined on several occasions by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for exceeding the permissible levels of pollutants in its emissions. And, yet again another report highlights the negligence of the authorities.
High Levels of Nickel and Benzene Found in the air
Recent studies conducted by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) have found high levels of nickel and benzene in the air around the Power Station. The levels of these toxic pollutants were found to be significantly higher than the prescribed limits set by the CPCB.
A. Health Effects of Nickel and Benzene Exposure
Nickel is a toxic metal that can cause respiratory problems, skin allergies, and asthma. Long-term exposure to nickel has also been linked to lung cancer. Benzene is a carcinogenic substance that can cause leukemia and other types of cancer. Exposure to high levels of benzene can also cause dizziness, headaches, and other neurological symptoms.
Benzene has been classified as a human carcinogen by both the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US National Toxicology Program (NTP). IARC, part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has found sufficient evidence to link benzene exposure to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) as well as other types of leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Meanwhile, the NTP has classified benzene as a human carcinogen.
B. Comparison with Indian and International Standards
The levels of nickel and benzene found in the air around the Panipat Thermal Power Station were found to be much higher than the Indian and international standards. The CPCB has set a limit of 1 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m³) for nickel and 5 µg/m³ for benzene in the air. However, the levels of nickel and benzene found around the thermal power station were found to be 2.2 µg/m³ and 13.9 µg/m³, respectively.
According to a report by a panel constituted by the National Green Tribunal, the levels of nickel, benzene, benzo (a) pyrene, particulate matter (PM)10, and PM2.5 were found to be exceeding the permissible limits in the ambient air at eight locations in the vicinity of the Panipat Thermal Power Station. With PM10 levels ranging from 155-432 ug/cubic metre (compared to the standard of 100 ug/cubic metre) and PM2.5 levels ranging from 66-275 ug/cubic metre (compared to the standard of 60 ug/cubic metre).
The locations include DAV School, PTPS Colony; Bal Vikas School Jattal; Government Senior Secondary School Jattal; Atal Seva Kendra Sutana; GD Goenka School Jattal; Maharishi Kashyap Government Polytechnic Jattal (near Parking Area); Field Hostel PTPS Colony; and Government Senior Secondary Sutana (near the main gate).
The HPGCL, the agency that runs the Panipat Thermal Power Station, has disputed the findings of the study. They have claimed that the levels of pollutants in the air are within permissible limits. However, independent studies have confirmed the HSPCB’s findings. This means that the local population is being exposed to high levels of toxic pollutants, which can have severe health effects.
The Panipat Thermal Power Station is not the only source of air pollution in the region. The industrial activities in the area, including the oil refinery and the fertilizer plant, also contribute to the problem. However, the thermal power station is the largest source of pollution in the area. Hence, it is essential that immediate steps are taken to reduce the levels of pollutants in the air.
The HPGCL needs to take responsibility for the health and well-being of the local population. The NGT panel suggested that the thermal station should have a provision for washing the tires of ash-carrying earth movers or vehicles before they reach the Panipat-Assandh road, city roads, and other village roads. This will help to prevent the re-suspension of dust particles. They can install pollution control equipment, reduce the use of coal, and promote the use of renewable energy sources.
The need of the hour is for the government and industries to work together to implement effective measures to reduce air pollution and protect public health. This can include promoting the use of clean energy sources, implementing strict emission standards, and enforcing environmental regulations. It is essential that the government and the industry work together to address the issue of air pollution and take steps to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for ourselves and future generations.
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