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The News

Published Date: Jan 7, 2014

India admits its coal plants causing fog inside Pakistan

Every winter major parts Pakistan’s Punjab get exposed to a thick blanket of fog mainly because of coal based power houses in India and trans-boundary pollution is inflicting millions of dollars loss to the country’s environment and economy.

This has been unveiled in a letter written by eminent climate expert Arshad H Abbasi, associated with SDPI, to Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.”India has itself acknowledged in the international courts while defending the controversial hydropower project on Pakistan’s rivers, arguing that the thermal electric power generation based on coal is not sustainable environmentally. India says: “Our coal based thermal power plants are emitting ash, causing serious pollution and helping to forming fog in the Sub-Continent.”

“India further maintains in the international courts to justify the erection of hydropower projects on Pakistan’s rivers that the ash generation was not
only polluting the environment but also adding fuel to global warming,”
mentions the communication of Arshad Abbasi to the prime minister.

When
contacted, former DG Met Office Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, who is currently associated with LEAD-Pakistan as Senior Adviser on Climate Change, confirmed that the carbon emissions from the coal based power houses in India is the main reason of fog in many areas of Pakistan’s Punjab. He said two years back the Met Office had conducted a study on fog and reached the conclusion that coal based power plants in India’s Punjab are contributing a lot in generating fog in eastern part of Pakistan’s Punjab. “We are witnessing extended fog in Pakistan and this phenomenon has started occurring in last 7-8 years.”

However,
in the letter to the chief executive of the country, Arshad Abbasi highlighted startling disclosures, saying that in South Asia, the total coal consumption was 685 million tones out of which 98% was in India, with the majority of coal consumed in the power sector.

The
energy mix in India is heavily dependent on coal, and electricity generation on coal fuel is 71%, the highest in South Asia. Yet, the coal
in India is of poor quality, with high ash content and low calorific value. He also quoted an interesting report by Centre for Study of Science & Technology, Bangalore that reveals that the Indian coal’s quality is very poor having 35%-45% ash content, low heating value thus generation of one unit electricity emits one kilogram of Carbon Dioxide and almost annually, 200 million tons of ash is generated using coal in power sector.

The Indian coal unlike the rest of the world
has the highest arc contents, 25%-45%, with low heating value, thus to generate one unit electricity, coal power plants emit one kilogram of carbon dioxide. The emission of other more hazardous gasses, such as sulphur oxides, nitrogen, fly ash, and suspended particles are responsible for the greenhouse effect.Arshad Abbasi appreciated the PML-N government’s efforts in making peace with India, admitting that this is necessary for the future prosperity of our two nations.

However,
this should not be at the expense of our citizens’ health and environmental sustainability in the region. In fact, environmentalists in India are concerned about the negative environmental effects of coal.
Citizens in Saarc nations are concerned about trans-boundary externalities of coal and call for an agreement similar to the Asean Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution model in South Asia.

Arshad
Abbasi also mentioned that while it is a common error to think of climate change as something in the future, every single day we are affected by poor decisions that are leading to terrible environmental degradation. As a thick blanket of fog envelopes Pakistan, a phenomenon that only seems to increase every year, it is integral to understand the
reasons why this is happening and take urgent action to mitigate its effects.

It is a mistake to think of haze creation and fog
formation in Pakistan as a natural effect of falling temperatures and relative humidity. The distinct fog formation in Pakistan – the persistence, and the intensity – signals a deeper problem: air pollution. While automobile exhaust and burning of dried leaves contribute to this effect in smaller doses, the single biggest factor is
the use of coal in thermal power plants for electricity generation.

Flying
ash and trace elements in atmosphere after coal is burned is a major environmental hazard and public health concern, causing respiratory ailments like asthma, impairing the immune system and even causing cancer. Moreover, power plants running on coal emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.