New Delhi, Oct 12 (PTI) India’s current environmental, land and labour laws are inadequate to deal with decommissioning of industries, and thermal power plants (TPPs), says a new study by non-profit environmental research organisation iFOREST. Chandra Bhushan, CEO of iFOREST, 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.” A just transition means that the plant site is fully remediated, the workforce is compensated or reemployed, the economic loss of dependent communities is compensated, and new economic opportunities and environmental outcomes are created for communities to benefit from. “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. The report on ‘Just Transition of coal-based power plants in India: A policy and regulatory review’ says there are no laws in India that mandate decommissioning, remediation and repurposing of a coal TPP after its retirement. “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. 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,” said Mandvi Singh, Programme Lead, iFOREST and the lead writer of the report. 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.” Dr Namita Wahi, Founding Director, Land Rights Initiative highlighted the importance of involving communities in deciding the fate of the land after closure. “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,” said Wahi. PTI GVS ZMN
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