Coal power emissions killing over a lakh Indians every year

Emissions from coal-fired power plants killed up to 115,000 Indians prematurely in 2011-12, leading to a cumulative monetary cost of Rs 16,000–23,000 crore, claims a new report by Conservation Action Trust in partnership with Greenpeace India. At roughly 210 GW, India is the fifth largest electricity generator in the world, of which 66 per cent comes from coal.

According to the report, among the worst-affected regions in terms of health was the national capital, Delhi, followed by Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the Indo-Gangetic plain, and most of central India.

The report, Coal Kills, derived from a database of 111 coal-fired power plants compiled by Urban Emissions in 2011-12, also attributed the millions of cases of asthma, respiratory and heart diseases and child mortality, to coal-fired power plants.

“Demographically, adverse impacts are especially severe for the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. In addition, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in areas downwind of multiple power plants are likely to be disproportionately exposed to the health risks and costs of fine particle pollution,” it said.

Fine particle pollution is a mixture of pollutants such as soot, acid droplets, heavy metals that originate primarily from combustion sources such as power plants, diesel trucks, buses and cars.

Pollution standards

The report called upon the Government to put in place pollution standards for individual power plants, with a proper monitoring mechanism. Emission standards in India lag those in China, Australia, the US and the European Union, it added.

Sarath Guttikunda, TED Fellow and adjunct faculty at the Desert Research Institute, Reno, the US, and co-author of the report, said, “thousands of lives can be saved every year if India tightens its particulate emissions standards, introduces emission limits for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury and institutes mandatory monitoring of emissions at plant stacks, making the data publicly available in real time.”


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