Question: Coal imports in India has grown continuously eventhough it remains a major contributor to pollution. Explain importance of coal for India. Also suggest possible measures to reduce its impact.
Answer: India has been a coal importing country as the quality of domestically available coal is unable to supplement its demand in energy sector. The usage of coal is an important contributor towards pollution of air and water.
Importance of coal in India
- Electricity generation
Majority of coal that is imported is used for producing electricity through thermal power plants. These plants contribute more than 50% of India’s electricity demands.
- Iron smelting industry
Coal and its constituent Coke is a major component in iron smelting industry where iron ore is chemically converted into steel. The produced steel is majorly used in domestic real estate sector as well as imported to countries such as US and Europe.
Coal and its by-product make up a important constituent of cement manufacturing. The domestically produced cement is used for infrastructure development. In addition coal is also used for domestic purposes such as engines on a small scale.
Measures to reduce effects from Coal
- Renewable energy
The best method to reduce effects of coal would be to reduce usage of coal. Majority of coal is used for electricity generation and hence it is imperative to use alternative methods to produce electricity. Renewable sources such as solar energy, wind energy, biogas etc must be encouraged.
- Syngas technology
To avoid release of toxic elements during coal burning, it can be directly converted to gas before extraction. This method will reduce efforts to transport bulky coal as well as eliminate chances of theft or pollution of rivers during extraction.
- Air purification
If there is no other alternative to usage of coal in power plants, air purifier systems can be implemented. The coal gas has to be transported through a purification chamber that will absorb or neutralize the harmful gases and reduce pollution. In addition the fly ash generated can be used as fertilizer.
Thus, Coal is the backbone of our industrial sector and replacing it altogether is highly difficult. A long term policy has to be adopted that will focus on reducing coal usage slowly so that alternative methods can be explored and adopted.