About: SO2 Pollution

Headline : Coal-based power makes India largest SO2 emitter in world

Details :

In News:

  • Greenpeace India has come up with a new report on sulphur dioxide pollution using NASA data from the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite.
  • As per the report, India is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2), which is produced from coal burning. It says India has more than 15 per cent of all anthropogenic SO2 hotspots in the world.


News Summary:

  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is a significant contributor to air pollution.
  • As per the Green Peace report, India is the largest cumulative emitter SO2 in the world.
  • However, analysis of ambient air quality data by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India’s national pollution watchdog, however, shows that sulphur dioxide levels were within the acceptable limits in all 50 major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Pune and Kanpur, in the country during 2016-18.
  • Although SO2 concentration monitored directly across cities in India might show low values, being a reactive pollutant, SO2 reacts with other air pollutants to form sulphate particles and makes a significant part of particulate matter (PM2.5), which has proven to be a major health risk across the world, leading to millions of deaths.
  • The primary reason for the country’s high emission output is the expansion of coal-based electricity generation over the past decade. The vast majority of coal-based power plants in India lack flue-gas desulphurization (FGD) technology to reduce air pollution. The rapid rise in demand for power and the absence of regulations are seen as the reasons behind the drastic rise.

SO2 emission hotspots:

  • As per country-wise world rankings, India was found at the top position in emitting SO2 as it has the maximum hotspots. Five of the top 10 SO2 emission hotspots from coal/power generation industry across the world are in India
  • The major SO2 emission hotspots in India are Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh, Neyveli and Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Talcher and Jharsuguda in Odisha, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Kutch in Gujarat, Ramagundam in Telangana and Chandrapur and Koradi in Maharashtra.
  • Russia’s Norilsk smelter complex is the largest individual SO2 emission hotspot. 


About: SO2 Pollution

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2), a colorless, bad-smelling, toxic gas, is part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as sulfur oxides (SOx). These gases, especially SO2, are emitted by the burning of fossil fuels — coal, oil, and diesel — or other materials that contain sulfur.
  • Like nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide can create secondary pollutants once released into the air. Secondary pollutants formed with sulfur dioxide include sulfate aerosols, particulate matter, and acid rain.

Sources of SO2 pollution:

  • The greatest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels in power plants and other industrial facilities like metals processing and smelting facilities etc.
  • A substantial amount is produced by human activities such as the combustion of fuels with high sulfur-containing impurities in ships and other vehicles and use of other heavy equipment.
  • SO2 in small quantities is produced by volcanoes and other natural processes.
  • Old India’s power plants with antiquated technology emit more sulfur dioxide.

Impact SO2 pollution:

  • Sulfur dioxide pollution can cause respiratory problems like asthma, heart and lung disease, and even dementia and fertility problems.
  • Sulfur dioxide and other SOx are partly culpable in the formation of thick haze and smog, which can impair visibility in addition to impacting health.
  • The gas contributes to the formation of acid rain which can harm sensitive ecosystems.
  • It is also a precursor for sulfate aerosols, a type of suspended particle that can affect the properties of clouds.
  • Sulfur-containing air pollutants such as sulfate can be transported long distances to affect public health and the environment at a regional scale.

Steps to manage and reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide:

  • Setting up of monitoring network for assessment of ambient air quality. For example, government launched National Air Quality index starting with 14 cities and now extended to more cities.
  • Implementing national fuel quality standards. For example, implementation of Bharat Stage norms.
  • Promoting alternative fuels. For example, introduction of cleaner / alternate fuels like gaseous fuel, ethanol blend etc. replacing petrol and diesel.
  • Revision of existing environmental standards and formulation of new standards for prevention and control of SO2 pollution. For example, the environment ministry brought new norms for coal-based power stations to cut down emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and improve the ambient air quality around power plants.
  • Use of latest technology is encouraged. For example, the FGD or Flue-gas desulfurisation is used to remove sulphur dioxide from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants, and from the emissions of other sulphur oxide emitting processes.
Section : Environment & Ecology