Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Health Impact Study Of India Coal Power Plants

Do check out this New York Times interview with Dr. Sarath Guttikunda on the impact of India's coal power plants on health and environment. Dr. Guttikunda founded Urban Emissions, an air pollution research firm based in New Delhi and is also affiliate associate research professor at the Desert Research Institute, the environmental research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education. He blogs at Urban Emissions.

Why are such studies important?

From the interview:

From epidemiological studies and the recent Global Burden of Disease assessments, it is evident that outdoor air pollution is one of the key sources of disease and death in India.

In order for the public to demand action on controlling the air pollution, we feel that the information is the key element. We need to know the status of air pollution and contributions from various sources like transport, power plants, industries, household fuels, and others.

We feel that this study is important on two fronts. First, it presents data on emissions, concentrations and health impacts of the coal power sector. While this may seem basic, it is unfortunate that this sort of information has not been published previously and we hope that it presents policy makers with evidence as to air pollution and health impacts of the sector. Second, it shows that despite the air pollution it causes, there are minimal regulations in place to address the air pollution impacts.

If the study convinces policy makers of the need to put in place stringent standards and enforce them – then it may be a start to a broader conversation on our energy needs and the environmental and health costs of supplying them.

111 coal plants currently meeting about 60% of our electricity needs, but around 455 new ones planned according to the World Resources Institute.  Dr. Guttikunda says that with so many new plants a mere tightening of emission standards may not be sufficient to negate the health impacts of these plants. An alternate cleaner energy source needs to be available in really large amounts to avoid building so many new coal plants.

Nuclear power.... natural gas... solar... wind..?  There will be no silver bullet solution to India's energy needs.  We'll have to end up using an energy mix. That will include coal for several decades at least.

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