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Current laws scant to deal with decommissioning of power plants: Report

According to a recent study by iFOREST, India's current laws are insufficient to address the decommissioning of industries and thermal power plants. (Bloomberg)Premium
According to a recent study by iFOREST, India's current laws are insufficient to address the decommissioning of industries and thermal power plants. (Bloomberg)

A new study by non-profit environmental research organisation iFOREST states that India's current environmental, land and labour laws are inadequate to deal with decommissioning of industries, and thermal power plants

Even after implementation of laws associated with Environmental Impact Assessment and pollution prevention and control rules, there are still many gaps in the legislative and policy framework with respect to re-purposing and re-allocation of existing infrastructure. A recent study by the non-profit environmental research organisation iFOREST reported that India's current environmental, land, and labour laws are insufficient to deal with the decommissioning of industries and thermal power plants (TPPs).

CEO of iFOREST Chandra Bhushan said, “If the Ministry of Power's advisory to retire coal-based generation units of over 25 years of age is implemented, then as much as 50,000-60,000 MW capacity will have to retire by 2030."

“Therefore, it is important to ask if the country is prepared to decommission such large capacities and ensure a just outcome for the environment, labour and dependent communities," he added highlighting the issues related decommissioning thermal power plants.

A just transition entails the complete remediation of the plant site, wage replacement or compensation for the workforce, compensation for the economic loss suffered by dependent communities, and the creation of new economic opportunities and environmental outcomes that will benefit the communities.

"However, our current laws do not ensure a just transition. It is, therefore, important to modify our existing laws or enact a new law to ensure a just transition for the environment, labour and communities," said Chandra Bhushan. 

According to the report, 'Just Transition of coal-based power plants in India: A policy and regulatory review' there are no laws in India that mandate decommissioning, remediation and re-purposing of a coal TPP after its retirement. 

Mandvi Singh, Programme Lead, iFOREST and the lead writer of the report said, “A power plant site can remain 'as-it-is', as there are no laws that can force a plant owner to dismantle the plant, clean up the site and set up a new facility. Unlike the mining sector, power plants and industries are not required to prepare decommissioning plans."

She elaborated, 'The existing laws and regulations related to the environment, labour, land and finance are either ambiguous or are silent on decommissioning, leaving enough space for nonstandard approaches." 

Nazimuddin, a scientist at the Central Pollution Control Board, said, "The CPCB is working towards finalizing the draft environmental guidelines on the closure of thermal power plant as per the directions of the National Green Tribunal."

The founding director of the Land Rights Initiative, Dr. Namita Wahi, emphasised the significance of involving local communities in deciding what will happen to the land after closure.

Wahi said, "It is important to engage the local community in the land repurposing decision, especially in the context of forest land. They must be included in any formal mechanism developed for deciding on the fate of the decommissioned power plant land, because these lands were initially taken away from them."

(With inputs from PTI)

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