New Delhi: Come April and all four-wheelers in the country will have to meet Bharat Stage 4 pollution norms. But from across the city's borders, from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, a new pollution is drifting in - huge quantities of Sulphur-Dioxide, released by the systematic burning of pet coke by industries. Experts say it will be 300 times more polluting than a car that meets the new Bharat norms. Plus, pet coke releases a lot of heavy metals into the atmosphere.
- Under Bharat 4 norms diesel having less than 50 ppm sulphur is allowed
- Sulphur content of pet coke, burnt by industries, is 1,500 times more
- There is no restriction on use of pet coke in UP, Haryana
Pet coke or petroleum coke is a byproduct of petroleum. It is a popular industrial fuel as it releases more heat than coal and leaves very little residue like fly ash. It is also far cheaper than coal. While the burning of it is banned in Delhi, there is no restriction on its use in neighbouring UP or Haryana.
Worried, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to clarify its stand on the issue within four weeks. In November, Delhi, considered one of the world's most polluted cities, faced choking levels of smog after farmers in neighbouring Punjab burned crop stubble.
Bharat Stage 4 norms will ensure that only diesel containing less than 50 ppm (parts per million) of Sulphur will be allowed. But the sulphur content of pet coke is 74,000 ppm -- roughly 1,500 times more. NDTV did a survey of factories in Ghaziabad adjoining Delhi and found numerous factories using pet coke as a fuel to heat water and other appliances.
"You have to realise that this is what is left at the bottom of the barrel of the refining process of petroleum," said Sunita Narain, the Director General of research institute Centre For Science And Environment and a member of EPCA, the Supreme Court appointed pollution watchdog for Delhi.
The US, she said, is the biggest producer of pet coke but they don't use it as it has pollution issues. "Instead, it is being dumped in India," she adds.
A little over a year ago, China, which is also combating air pollution, announced strict measures to discourage the use of pet coke, virtually banning imports.
"Pet coke is polluting, but there are ways to control its emissions," said Sanjay Jain, a leading pet coke distributor in North India. "Instead of banning it and making our industries completely unviable in face of competition from China" the government, he said, needs to bring in regulation to control emissions.