The Supreme Court has banned the use of petroleum coke, a dirtier alternative to coal, in New Delhi in a bid to clean the air in one of the world’s most polluted cities. The Supreme Court, which recently banned the sale of firecrackers in the New Delhi area, also ordered a ban on the sale and use of furnace oil, another dirty refinery by-product, in and around the capital and ordered implementation of strict emission norms.
Petroleum coke, a dark solid composed mainly of carbon, emits 11 percent more greenhouse gases than coal. Burning it also emits several times more sulphur dioxide, which causes lung diseases and acid rain. Annual demand for the fuel, which is more energy efficient than coal, has nearly doubled over the past four years to more than 27 million tonnes.
The health ministry data shows that respiratory issues killed about 10 people per day in the year ended March 2017 in the National Capital Region. A rapidly urbanizing and polluted area around New Delhi is a third the size of New York state, but houses 2.5 times more people.
The ban on the sale and use of petcoke, which is effective from 1 November 2017, could hit the country’s small and medium scale industries, which employ millions of workers and operate on thin margins.
Sulphur-heavy petcoke and other cheap, highly polluting fuels such as furnace oil are widely used by cement factories, dyeing units, paper mills, brick kilns and ceramics businesses.