Five years ago, in 2015, India announced new rules to control air pollution from coal power plants.

The decision was celebrated across the country. 

Even showcased around the world as an example of India’s commitment to clean its air.

However, 5 years after the announcement, more than 70% of coal power plants continue to pollute our lungs and the companies that own them are dragging their feet at the cost of our health.



Coal Power Plants not abiding by the new clean air norms should be heavily penalised under the Environment Protection Act, for causing irreversible damage to our health and the environment, and in-numerous deaths.

five years ago...

2015 May


The use of coal to generate power may cause between 186,500 and 229,500 premature deaths annually as a result of a spike in air pollution caused by coal-fired power plants.

Toxic gases (SOx and NOx) and fine particulate matter produced during coal combustion get released into the air we breathe that can easily enter our lungs and choke the airways.

NOx is also responsible for smog and the typical brown cloud that covers larger cities and produces poor air quality—sounds familiar?

2015 December


new emissions standards for air pollution from coal plants announced for India by the Environment Ministry!

2-year deadline given to coal power companies to adhere to the new air pollution control norms.

By December 2017, 300 coal power plants across India should install scrubbers, filters and the flue gas de-sulphurisation (FGD) technology to control the emissions (Particulate Matter, SO2 and NOx) on burning of coal.

this is the beginning.

The beginning of a very long period of struggle for clean air.

2016 January

profit OVER LIvEs of people?

The Association of Power Producers claim that they would need to spend Rs 2.4 lakh crore over the next two years for the technical upgrades to meet the pollution control norms.


CEEW contradicted this figure and estimated total cost to be a LOT less, somewhere around 90,000 crores and not 2.4 lakh crore as announced by the power companies.

The power companies are unhappy with this new ruling, and so, hide behind a smokescreen of excuses...

the power industry said...

But hang on… The coal power plants especially the old ones do not have the space required for installing new technologies.

Sorry, we don’t think this is practically feasible!

The real picture...

That’s totally untrue!The Central Pollution Control Board points out that the environmental clearance to thermal power stations built after 2004 had been given on the condition that they would keep space for such devices.

Nice try, Air Offenders.

And the saga of excuses continued…

What the industry said...

the power industry said...

Adding these new components to the power stations is…costly.

Pollution control board...

The benefits of cleaner technologies far outweigh the financial costs. The economic cost of the health impact of air pollution is higher and will affect thousands of people across the country!

And another one…

Ashok Khurana, Association for power producers...

The timelines laid in [the 2015] notification were impractical. It appears that these were prescribed without keeping in mind the ground realities.

Central pollution control board...

This contention is rejected! Two years was adequate time for the thermal power industry to address all the issues related to availability of technology as well as sorting out issues related to tariff.

2016 November


“The deadline to meet all the new standards may be pushed back beyond the original December 2017 target,” says S.D. Dubey, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority, the Ministry of Power.

What a let-down.

2016 December

12 months and no progress whatsoever

The power companies continued polluting our environment, making us sick—all that to avoid paying for the mandatory technology upgrade.

Welcome 2017, the year where one in eight deaths in India is attributable to air pollutionmaking it a leading risk factor for death.

2017 January

Coal-based power to get ₹ costlier ₹

Citizens brace for some power tariff hikes as coal power companies might start raising a whopping Rs 2.5 lakh crore from consumers to compensate for the investments they are required to make to meet pollution emission norms.

So we Indians have 2 options: Either breathe in toxic air or pay up for the pollution filters on coal chimneys. 

Wait, so how exactly is burning coal a viable source of energy? Would the power ministry and power producers be kind enough to elucidate, please?

Anyway, moving on…

2017 March

India and China have the world’s deadliest Air Pollution

The Health Effects Institute study reveals that India alone accounted for 25.7% of all early deaths caused by air pollution across the globe.

2017 March

Power companies come up with some brand new excuses to not comply

Power companies...

The new norms are more stringent than World Bank norms.

You’re being too tough!

Central Pollution COntrol Board says...

False! The norms are comparable to the standards not just in the United States and the European Union but also China. In fact, the current emission limit applicable to most Indian plants allows these coal plants to emit five times more pollution than that in China.

2017 July

Indian power companies seek billions of dollars of public money

Best of both worlds?

Extend the deadline AND help us install the pollution-control technology to the coal power plants.

Or else hefty tariff increases (born by the public) would otherwise be needed to pay for the emission control technology!

Private companies such as Reliance Power Ltd, Adani Power Ltd and GMR and state-run NTPC Ltd, request an extension to the December deadline to meet the new pollution standards.

2017 September

Environment ministry planning to twist its own rules?

In a meeting held on September 1, 2017, the Ministry of Environment decides that the new norms should begin to be implemented from 2018.


Let’s get this straight, the environment ministry is amending its own guidelines in a closed door meeting without consulting the public.

2017 October

India allows 16 new coal power plants that violate stricter air pollution standards

The headline says it all. And to top it, the Power Ministry’s Central Electricity Authority has worked out a plan to help the coal companies dodge the December 2017 deadline. #FriendshipGoals


And what can possibly top that? The environment ministry did not take any action against the new power stations violating the new 2015 pollution norms.

2017 November

Enter the Supreme Court

The SC asks the Government to send a response on the progress of implementation of new emission norms for coal-based power plants, with just a month left to comply.

A government affidavit filed before the Supreme Court argues that all coal power plants could not be taken offline to retrofit equipment because—WAIT FOR IT—power supply from thermal plants, which supply 80% of India’s electricity, could not be interrupted.


Government continues negotiating the clean-air deadline

The environment ministry had originally set a two years compliance time after numerous meetings with the power ministry, the power industry and the Central Pollution Control Board.

Now the same ministry is arguing that so many power plants cannot go offline and is urging the Supreme Court to push the deadline to 2022.

It’s the end of 2017 and has been two whole years since the emission control norms were notified.

2017 December

deadline blatantly BREACHED—Indians will have to wait much longer for cleaner air

Disappointing yet unsurprising turn of events—the deadline set by the government for the coal power plants to ensure air pollution control is not met.

The government should try to implement the norms as soon as possible, Justice M. B. Lokur, who is heading the two-judge bench, tells government.



Coal Power Plants not abiding by the new clean air norms should be heavily penalised under the Environment Protection Act, for causing irreversible damage to our health and the environment, and in-numerous deaths.

2017 December

The silence of the environment ministry speaks volumes

The thermal power industry argues adopting clean technologies is costly.

The government caves and extends the deadline by some more years. 

3 more of breathing in poisonous air and carrying the burden of healthcare costs.

2018 February

Coal Power Companies get a new deadline and so a huge ‘breather’

For the next three years, Indians will continue to suffer from air pollutant sulphur-dioxide (SO2), as the deadline for coal-fired thermal power plants to install flue-gas desulfurization has been extended.

Keep scrolling.

nothing to see here.

because the power companies and the government just keep delaying and wasting more time.

Nope, still nothing. So far, many Indians have lost their lives in this 2-year period of waiting for cleaner air and better days.

2018 July

SC: People are getting sick and dying. Is this a joke to you?

The Supreme Court pulls up the government for putting “the health of citizens to ransom” by giving an extension of five years to over 500 coal-based thermal power plants to adhere to stricter emission norms.


2018 August

Pollution control technology—a huge opportunity for India’s manufacturing industrY

A new study notes that manufacturing and maintenance of pollution control equipment is a 3.96 lakh crore industry. The benefits of this investment far outweigh the costs — it estimates the monetary value of the 3.2 million avoided premature deaths and respiratory hospital admissions and work-loss days at ₹9.62 lakh crore.


People outrage over this inexcusable delay! Citizen groups file a petition on the failure of more than 500 coal-fired power plants to install emission control equipment.

2018 September

Coal-fired power plants likely to miss the deadline for the second timE

In a hearing, the Supreme Court states

“it is quite clear that the Power Ministry has no intention to do anything to reduce pollution. It shows that even the 2022 deadline cannot be met. It [the government affidavit] is illusory in nature. It appears that the Union of India proposes to do nothing in the matter.”


What the industry said...

The government has claimed that the 2015 emission norms were specifically laid down for older thermal power plants.

The real picture...

Even if that’s true, there’s no rationale for new plants to be exempted from the rules particularly so as it was easier to install the necessary emission control equipment in new plants that retrofit older plants with the same units.

2019 January

Another year where India fails to provide clean air to its people but allows power companies to thrive.

2019 May

Take your time while we relax the rules for you, Govt to Power Companies

After delaying the implementation of clean air technologies by five years (2017 to 2022), the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change gives in-principle approval for diluting air pollution rules for coal-fired thermal power plants.

2019 August

Air Offenders Unite!

The Supreme Court notes while hearing the matter that a general consensus for diluting air pollution standards has been reached between the Ministry of Environment, the CPCB, the Ministry of Power and the Environment Pollution Control Authority appointed by the court.

2019 October

“But where’s the technology?”

The power producers finally wake up, 4 years late but sure, with concerns over the emission control technology that they needed to install by 2017.

What the industry said...

The technology is unavailable in India ⓘ

The real picture...

Several studies – here and here – have proven that a range of technologies exist that enable Indian power plants to meet the prescribed norms.

2019 December

there is no link between air pollution and mortality: Prakash Javadekar

There were no Indian studies that showed a “direct correlation” between pollution and mortality, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar says in the Lok Sabha.

Exactly a year ago, on the December 6, 2018, the India State Level Disease Burden Initiative (ISLDBI) — which consists of at least a 100 health professionals — reported that one in eight deaths in India were attributable to air pollution.

2020 January

Power Producers’ figurative nose grows longer

India’s power industry continues pushing to relax the norms for lethal nitrous oxide or NOx emissions, claiming

What the industry said...

“The pilot projects of technologies to cut down emissions have proved ineffective in India”

The real picture...

Dear Air Offenders, it was you who did not allow the FGD tech companies to make some primary modifications to the plants before conducting the tests.

The technologies on their own had produced good results during the pilot and are currently used in China, Japan and European countries to reduce NOx pollution.

2020 July

Power Producers’ latest plea, another 3 years sought

Association of power producers has sought more time to install emission controlling equipment at their plants, citing various issues, including COVID-19.

What the industry said...

Equipment supply disruptions from China, have posed challenges in meeting the December 2022 deadline

The real picture...

“Companies like BHEL have the technology and can adapt them to our needs. China is not the only supplier. Besides, Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative is all about producing locally.”

Sunil Dahiya, Analyst at CREA

2020 September

Delay is causing irreparable damage to the health of the children

Missed deadlines each year causes an estimated 88,000 cases of childhood asthma, 1,40,000 cases of pre-term births and 3,900 premature deaths among children.

2020 October 13

Outrageous: CEA proposes relaxing air pollution control deadline

CEA puts out an outrageous proposal that attempts to dilute SOx emission norms. Says that in places where ambient SOx levels are low, coal power plant be allowed to pollute for extended period of time. Completely misses the point on secondary particulate matter!

2020 October 29

Environment ministry relaxes NOx norms

Meanwhile, the past attempt to dilute NOx norms was officially accepted by the environment ministry when they put out an ordinance to that effect. The environment Ministry caved in to power producers’ claim that meeting the stipulated NOx limits were impossible, even though Hindalco limited was able to achieve those limits for two of its coal plants.

Environment ministry diluted NOx norms; but did it need to?  

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah: 'We want to breathe easier'

2020 December

it’s confirmed: Air pollution caused ella’s death

A court in the UK has made legal history by ruling that air pollution is one of the causes of death of 9 year old Ella Kissi Debrah, who lived near a busy road in London with her mother. Ella has become the first person in the UK – and potentially the world – for whom air pollution is listed as a cause of death

2021 January

Power ministry asks MoEF&CC to dilute emission norms for coal-based power stations

The power ministry criticised MoEF&CC for framing uniform norms for all TPPs across India and advised different norms be set for different TPPs.

Accordingly, the CEA prepared a report. The Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based non-profit, had found the report’s conclusions to be incomplete and invalid.

2021 April

It’s official: India pushes deadline for coal power plants to adopt new emission norms

India had initially set a 2017 deadline for thermal power plants to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) units that cut emissions of sulphur dioxides. But that was postponed to varying deadlines for different regions, ending in 2022.



Coal Power Plants not abiding by the new clean air norms should be heavily penalised under the Environment Protection Act, for causing irreversible damage to our health and the environment, and in-numerous deaths.

About air offenders of India

Air Offenders of India is a collaborative project that puts together a timeline since the first announcement of new emission standards until today.

It chronicles everything that has been said either for or against the new law that requires coal power operators to curb pollution. It calls out those who have deliberately made false statements with the intention of stalling implementation.