India and coal: A public health crisisBy Graham Land Mar 11, 2013 10:49PM UTC
A new study by various environmental activist groups warns that air pollution in India from coal-fired power plants is causing 80-115,000 premature deaths every year.
The report, entitled Coal Kills: An assessment of death and disease caused by India’s dirtiest energy source, funded by the Conservation Action Trust, Urban Emissions and Greenpeace India, estimates that health problems associated with coal plant emissions cost the country as much as $4.6 billion US annually. These health concerns include asthma (around 21m attacks per year), restricted activity days and under-5 child mortality (10,000 per year).
Coal Kills uses the language of economics alongside tabulating the human cost of death and disease from coal pollution. This tactic challenges the typical cost and effect analysis of industrialization, in which the well-being of some is deemed a price worth paying in order to achieve economic growth. What if the poor human health resulting from particulate matter emitted by coal plants actually has a heavy economic burden?
From the report:
The morbidity and mortality burden is particularly costly for governments in terms of work days lost, lost productivity, and loss in terms of gross domestic product. Since most PM [particulate matter] related deaths occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing PM pollution from sources like transport and power plants has almost immediate benefits for health and the national economy.
In India and elsewhere, particulate matter doesn’t just come from the burning of coal. I’ve previously posted figures about the increase in personal vehicle usage (Delhi adds 1,100 per day, mostly diesel) and how black carbon (from coal, biomass stoves, slash and burn agriculture, fuel oil-powered ships) is both a health hazard and a short term climate forcer.
As far as cities go, Delhi still finished in the top 5.
From the Times of India:
According to the findings of the study released during the end of February, about 78% of the 180 cities surveyed exceed the (particulate matter) PM10 standard. 90 cities have critical levels of PM10. 26 have the most critical levels, exceeding the standard by over three times. Gwalior, Raipur, West Singhbhum, Ghaziabad and Delhi are the top five critically polluted cities.