NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Coal-fired utilities around New Delhi were still operating on Wednesday despite threats from the Indian authorities to close them down if they had not installed equipment to cut emissions of sulfur oxides by the end of the year.
Three senior executives at companies operating power plants around New Delhi and facing an end-2019 deadline said they had not received direction on whether they could continue to run the plants having not installed the kit.
Only one out of the 11 utilities in the national capital region had installed the equipment.
India had already extended its December 2017 deadline for its utilities to meet the emissions standards - posing a further challenge to the authorities grappling with the pollution that can cause lung disease and blights air quality.
Officials from the India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), who had threatened a shut down for non-compliance, did not respond to repeated calls and text messages seeking comment.
Reuters reported last month that more than half of India’s coal-fired power plants and 94% of the coal-fired units ordered to retrofit equipment to curb air pollution would likely miss the phased deadlines.
The air quality index for the Indian capital, the worst affected major city, indicated “severe” conditions on Wednesday - like most days this winter - a potential risk for even healthy people.
Real-time data government data showed both power plants in the country’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh which had a Dec. 31 deadline were operating. In Punjab, Vedanta-owned TSPL units were producing power, as were state-run plants at Ropar and Bhatinda.
Mohammed Shayin, managing director at northern Haryana state-run power generator HPGCL said all units other than ones under scheduled maintenance were operational, adding that the utility was “pleading” with federal authorities to extend the emissions deadline.
Private producers such as Vedanta and Larsen & Toubro Ltd argued for yet another extension to the deadline.
L&T-owned Nabha Power Ltd said it was “constrained to shut down both its units due to a delay in extension of timelines by the CPCB”.
Vedanta said it was “confident” that authorities “would take a considerate stand”.
“We shall shut the plant in case we get the directions from the CPCB or the environment ministry,” the company said.
Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Alison Williams