High ash content coal used by the Power Stations
As per information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), it has been revealed that the seven thermal power stations of Maharashtra are burning coal with very high ash against the guidelines prescribed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
Mahagenco has informed in response to the RTI application that 199.23 lakh metric tonne (MT) coal was procured from Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) in the financial year 2010-11 out of which 119.32 lakh MT raw coal was supplied directly to the power stations without washing. The remaining 79.91 lakh MT coal was washed. Washing is done for reduction of ash content of the coal.
The reply also reveals that 80.87% of the total procured quantity of coal was of grade-E which means that the ash content was 34% to 40% while 0.95% coal was of grade-F translating into ash content of 40% to 47%. There was no grade A coal while that for others was 0.038% grade-B (19.50% to 24% ash content), 0.46% grade-C (24% to 28.70% ash content) and 17.67% grade-D (28.70% to 34% ash content).
As per Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) guidelines, coal comprising of ash content above 34% is termed as coal with high ash content. The MoEF's has directed vide notification dated 19th September 1997, that the power stations located in critically-polluted areas, urban areas and in ecologically sensitive areas or areas 1,000 kms beyond from coal mine from where coal is supplied should not use coal comprising ash content of over 34%. In case of non-availability of coal of low ash content coal, the MoEF had directed to wash the coal for reduction of the ash content to below 34%. It has been reported that the Mahagenco had been washing 25-30% of total quantity of coal which has come to a halt since April 2011.
The non implementation of the guidelines not only affects the environment adversely but also causes huge expenses of power stations. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed at the High Court on the basis of this data notices have been issued to the ministry of coal, Coal India Limited, WCL, MPCB, Mahagenco and others.