MAC: Mines and Communities

India: coal-fired power "kills up to 115,000 citizens" a year

Published by MAC on 2013-03-19
Source: Guardian, Times of India

The Conservation Action Trust, Greenpeace India, and Urban Emissions have released the first ever assessment of the health impacts of air emissions from coal fired power plants in India.

The results suggest that these emissions kill 80,000-115,000 people every year, costing the government between $3.3 and $4.6 billion in health care expenses.

The report can be downloaded here:

Indian coal power plants 'kill 120,000 people a year', says Greenpeace

Environmental group's report on pollution in the country warns emissions may cause 20m new asthma cases a year

John Vidal


10 March 2013

India's breakneck pace of industrialisation is causing a public health crisis with 80-120,000 premature deaths and 20m new asthma cases a year due to air pollution from coal power plants, a Greenpeace report warns.

The first study of the health impact of India's dash for coal, conducted by a former World Bank head of pollution, says the plants cost hospitals $3.3-$4.6bn (£2.2-£3.1bn) a year - a figure certain to rise as the coal industry struggles to keep up with demand for electricity.

The Delhi and Kolkata regions were found to be the most polluted but Mumbai, western Maharashtra, Eastern Andhra Pradesh and the Chandrapur- Nagpur region in Vidarbha were all affected.

The study, which took data from 111 major power plants, says there is barely any regulation or inspection of pollution. "Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved, and millions of asthma attacks, heart attacks, hospitalisations, lost workdays and associated costs to society could be avoided, with the use of cleaner fuels, [and] stricter emission standards and the installation and use of the technologies required to achieve substantial reductions in these pollutants," said the report. "There is a conspicuous lack of regulations for power plant stack emissions. Enforcement of what standards [which] do exist, is nearly non-existent," it says.

India is the world's second largest coal burner after China, generating 210 GW of electricity a year, mostly from coal. But it is likely to become the largest if plans to generate a further 160 GW annually are approved.

"Thousands of lives can be saved every year if India tightens its emissions standards, introduces limits for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury and institutes mandatory monitoring of emissions at plant stacks," said the report's author, Sarath Guttikunda, a former head of the World Bank's pollution division.

Nearly 400 million people in India have no electricity and power outages are common. The pressure to generate power has led to tens of thousands of homes being moved to make way for mines or plants. There are complaints that the power is mostly exported to large cities and heavy industry while local people are left with pollution and toxic dumps.

Vinuta Gopal of Greenpeace said: "The ongoing coal expansion is irrational and dangerous. Coal mining is destroying India's forests, tribal communities and endangered species, and now we know the pollution it emits when burned is killing thousands. Coal has failed to deliver energy security. We need a moratorium on new coal plants and ambitious policy incentives to unlock the huge potential India has in efficiency measures, wind and solar."

Coal power caused over 1L premature deaths: Study

Vijay Pinjarkar

Times of India

11 March 2013

NAGPUR: When Government is going all out to fast-track power generation it might as well pause to think of its serious public health effects. A study has revealed pollution caused by coal-fired plants in the country has resulted in an estimated 80,000 to 1,15,000 premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases in 2011-12. It cost the public and the government an estimated Rs16,000 to Rs23,000 crore.

The study 'Coal Kills: An assessment of death and disease caused by India's dirtiest energy source' was conducted by NGOs Conservation Action Trust (CAT), Mumbai, Urban Emissions, Delhi, and Greenpeace, Bangalore. It also reveals that at least 10,000 kids (under 5 years) died during the last year with millions taking impact on respiratory system, chronic bronchitis, chest discomforts, asthma attacks etc.

Studies in US and Europe have already established that emissions from coal-fired power were responsible for significant levels of illness and premature death. However, such data are hard to come by in India. The study was carried for the first time to address this deficiency, the NGOs who released the findings said.

Debi Goenka of CAT said Urban Emissions developed estimates of health impacts using a well-established and extensively peer-reviewed methodology based on concentration-response functions established from epidemiological studies.

"The data in this study are derived from a database of coal-fired power plants compiled by Urban Emissions for the operational period of 2011-12 and takes into account a total of 111 coal-based plants representing a generation capacity of 121 gigawatts (GW)," Goenka said.

The largest impact of these emissions is felt over the states of Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Indo-Gangetic Plain, and most of the Central-East India.

Geographically, impacts can be observed farther than 50-100 km from the source region, increasing not only ambient concentrations at these receptor points, but also the morbidity and mortality risk. Additional impacts include deposition of heavy metals and sulphur dioxides on farmlands.

The study quantified additional health impacts such as hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and lost workdays caused by coal-based emissions.

In addition, the study says, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in areas downwind of multiple power plants were likely to be disproportionately exposed to health risks and costs of pollution.

"These impacts are likely to increase significantly in the future if Indian policymakers do not act. At approximately 210GW, India has the fifth largest electricity generation sector in the world of which 66% comes from coal," revealed the report.

Current plans envision deepening this reliance with 76GW for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) and 93GW for the 13th Five Year Plan (2017-2022). The majority of planned capacity additions are coal-based and according to government projections, coal's share in the Indian electricity mix will remain largely constant.

For particulate matter emissions, the emission standards in India lag behind those implemented in China, Australia, the United States and the European Union. For other key pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, there are no prescribed emission standards in India.

"Given the country's dependence on coal for electricity, and the absence of effective pollution controls, persistently elevated levels of fine particle pollution are common across large parts of the country, particularly in Central and Northern India," says Goenka.

The report also states that 40% of the total premature deaths due to power plants pollution are reported in Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal.

The report called for mandating flue gas desulphurization and introduction and tightening of emission standards for pollutants such as SO2 and NOx. Any attempts to weaken even the current environmental regulations will add to this unfolding human tragedy, it warns.

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