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Joseph Romm's picture
American Progress
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Coal’s True Cost in India: 100,000+ Deaths per Year

coal's health effects in IndiaA report issued yesterday from Conservation Action Trust and Greenpeace India outlines the health cost of coal. Via ClimateWire:

As many as 115,000 people die in India each year from coal-fired power plant pollution, costing the country about $4.6 billion, according to a groundbreaking new study released today.

This report, by the Mumbai-based Conservation Action Trust, is the first full study of “the link between fine particle pollution and health problems in India, where coal is the fuel of choice and energy demands are skyrocketing.”

The findings are stunning. In addition to more than 100,000 premature deaths, it links millions of cases of asthma and respiratory ailments to coal exposure. It counts 10,000 children under the age of 5 as fatal victims last year alone.

“I didn’t expect the mortality figures per year to be so high,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee of the Conservation Action Trust.

115,000 people die earlier than they should because of coal pollution — 10,000 children.

Millions of cases of breathing problems from fossil fuel addiction.

$4.6 billion is about 250 billion rupees (coincidentally the amount that India gave its oil refineries last month to compensate them for selling fuel below cost to help curb inflation).

Yes, “stunning” would be the word. You can watch the emissions rampage across the subcontinent by looking at the report (note, the page may take some time to load due to a multitude of animated graphs). The authors had to model their own data because India does not provide good open-source monitoring information at the plant level.

The report does not focus specifically on climate impacts (it does estimate 665.4 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2011 and 2012), but it does outline the critical importance of navigating India away from reliance on dirty fossil fuels and investing in clean renewable energy. Climate impacts health, and so does the dirty fossil fuel that causes climate change.

As the report concludes:

India’s emission standards for power plants lag far behind those of China, Australia, the EU and the USA. … Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved, and millions of asthma attacks, heart attacks, hospitalizations, lost workdays and associated costs to society could be avoided, with the use of cleaner fuels, stricter emission standards and the installation and use of the technologies required to achieve substantial reductions in these pollutants. These technologies are both widely available and very effective.

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Geoff Russell's picture
Geoff Russell on Mar 14, 2013

Biomass is also extensively used for cooking in India and also kills. You'll find a link in the following article to Professor Kirk Smith, who has been studying, measuring and helping to reduce such problems for 3 decades:

Greenpeace in India is actively standing in the way of projects to increase electricity production and save lives because it fears nuclear electricity far more than biomass cooking pollution.

Ron Wagner's picture
Ron Wagner on Mar 14, 2013

China burns nearly as much coal as all other nations combined, and has even greater air pollution problems. Not to mention they just found 6,000 dead pigs in one river!

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