India has overtaken China and Russia to become the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the world, making up more than 15% of global emissions, according to Greenpeace analysis of NASA satellites.
The greatest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is through the burning of fossil fuels in power plants and other industrial facilities. Over 50% of India’s electricity comes from coal, a figure which is increasing year-on-year.
As India’s population has grown so has its demand for electricity, and it now burns almost four times as much coal as in 1997.
The report adds that the vast majority of plants in India lack flue-gas desulphurisation technology to reduce their air pollution.
To combat rising pollution levels, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change introduced SO2 emission limits for coal-fired power plants in December 2015, but the deadline for the installation of flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) in power plants has been delayed from 2017 to 2022.
Smaller sources of SO2 emissions include industrial processes such as extracting metal from ore; natural sources such as volcanoes; and transport sources such as ships and trains.
Lauri Myllyvirta, Senior Analyst, at Greenpeace Nordic, said: ‘The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas is the largest source of emissions of SO2 resulting in disastrous air pollution and premature deaths.
‘Clean energy could save billions of dollars in health costs and thousands of lives every year. It’s fundamental that governments rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and set stronger emission standards as they shift over to sustainable alternatives.’
In their list of over 400 SO2 pollution hotspots, Humberside (283rd) was the only UK region to feature.
Other findings from the Greenpeace study include
- In Europe, Ukraine, Serbia and Bulgaria are in the list of the worst 20 SO2 emitting countries in the world.
- In terms of individual hotspots, the Norilsk smelter complex in Russia continues to be the largest SO2 emission hotspot in the world followed by Kriel in Mpumalanga province in South Africa and Zagroz in Iran.
- There are 12 coal-fired power stations in Mpumalanga province in South Africa, making the province the largest SO2 emission hotspot in the world from power generation.
Photo Credit – Pixabay
Greenpeace has produced a Google map of global SO2 hotspots which you can view below.