Coal’s True Cost: 100,000+ Deaths A Year In India

Photo credit: Conservation Action Trust

A 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.


7 Responses to Coal’s True Cost: 100,000+ Deaths A Year In India

  1. Mark E says:

    Does anyone know of a source for good graphics, based on recent stats, showing
    (A) coal extractin
    (B) domestic consumption
    (C) export/import routes and tonnage?


  2. M Tucker says:

    “India’s emission standards for power plants lag far behind those of China…”

    Wow, it sounds like China is some kind of model for clean air. So the skies in Beijing are now clear? All those Chinese children stricken with respiratory illness have disappeared? So China is no longer building coal power plants?

    Face it, the difference between India and China is that China has more pollution, burns more coal, has more children and old people suffering from respiratory illness and China pretends to care more. China has all kinds of plans but no action. Both are terrible places for pollution, greenhouse gasses, and illness.

  3. paulina says:

    Note that the estimate is not the “true” cost. It’s “just” one of the many hidden health costs.

    For instance, the estimate “does not include the impacts of the water run-of and soil contamination due to the release of heavy metals like zinc, copper, manganese, cobalt, cadmium, selenium, mercury, arsenic, iron, lead, and chromium.”

    Nor does it include climate costs, health or otherwise.

    Studies like these are of course very important, but they are far too frequently presented as, and reported on, as if their results represented the whole tab. This is strange and problematic.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Take it easy M. China knows she has problems and is taking action to fix them, ME

  5. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Pollution from Coal based power plants is indeed alarming. The answer for alternatives to power generation is massive usage of Renewables like Solar,wind,biomass,biofuel,micro and minihydel besides Energy Conservation.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  6. Frank Zaski says:

    India has the worst air pollution in the entire world, beating China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, according to a study released during the World Economic Forum in Davos. And, coal plants are a major contributor.

    Indian water is said to be worse than its air. Plus their water tables are declining fast.

    According to the American Geophysical Union, some of the highest rates of water depletion are in India and China.

    And, Indian and Chinese rivers are drying. Himalayan glaciers are among the fastest retreating glaciers globally due to the effects of global warming, and this will eventually result in water shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

    Coal plants consume billions of gallons of water a year and India relies on coal for 80% of their electricity. Plus, Coal India Sets Aside $6.5 Billion to Buy Overseas Mine Assets

    People are already protesting new coal plants. Large nonviolent protests of two 2,640 MW coal plants ended in police attacks, including four deaths of local residents.

  7. Addicted says:

    And we haven’t even gotten to the forests which the coal companies need chopped down so they can mine for coal.