statement of Associated Press that its investigation found that US oil
refineries are exporting to India vast quantities of the dirty fuel, petroleum
coke or petcoke which adds to the pollution containing 17 times more sulfur
than the permitted limit, the government has responded that it plans to phase
out petcoke import.
A day after
the AP investigation was published, Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas
Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said "We are planning to implement a system to stop
imports and use home-produced petcoke for non-polluting sectors, such as cement
production," He said fuel-hungry India consumes about 25 million metric
tons of petcoke each year, nearly half of which is imported.
has provoked the environmentalists is its approach to domestic use. It argued
in court this week that restrictions on petcoke around polluted New Delhi
should be eased for certain low-impact industries.
Petcoke is a bottom-of-the-barrel leftover from
the refining of Canadian tar sands crude and other heavy oils. It's cheaper and
burns hotter than coal. But laboratory tests on imported petcoke used near New
Delhi found it contained 17 times more sulfur than the limit set for coal.
petition filed by an environmentalist M.C.Mehta, the Supreme Court had imposed
a ban on the use of petcoke and furnace oil in three states of Uttar Pradesh,
Haryana and Rajasthan in October. The environment ministry argued in an
affidavit against the ban and sought that certain industries such as cement
manufacturing be allowed to use a small amount of petcoke for about a year
until they could come up with alternatives.
took objection to the argument and pointed out that there is an environmental
emergency with New Delhi which is one of the most polluted cities in the world.
He asked, "Is this government a custodian of people's life and health or
is it there to benefit some industrialists?"
Mukherjee, an environmentalist with the Center For Science and Environment,
said the ban was important for ensuring clean air until industries move to
cleaner fuels or install emission control measures.
has been choking from air pollution in recent weeks. The air quality typically
deteriorates at this time of year because the winds die down, people build
street fires to keep warm and farmers burn fields of old crops.
pollution has gotten so bad it has even interrupted India's favorite sport of
cricket. This week the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team wore pollution masks
and the bowlers complained they were short of breath. Some players vomited.
Play was stopped several times on Sunday as match officials debated whether to
continue, eventually deciding they would.
The Supreme Court will hear
the government's oral arguments on easing the petcoke ban next week.