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India is one of the fastest developing countries in the world, and whilst much of the country does not receive a steady supply of electricity, the few parts that do rely heavily on coal-fired power plants. India is the second largest consumer of coal after China, generating the majority of its 210GW capacity of electricity from coal sources. If plans to add an extra 160GW of generation capacity are approved then they could soon become the largest burner of coal in the world.
A Greenpeace report, compiled by a former World Bank head of pollution, Sarath Guttikunda, states that India’s use of coal power stations, coupled with their poor regulations on pollution, is causing a public health crisis, resulting in 80,000 - 120,000 premature deaths a year, and 20 million new cases of asthma.
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The report claims that, “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. There is a conspicuous lack of regulations for power plant stack emissions. Enforcement of what standards which do exist, is nearly non-existent.”
By introducing more exacting emission standards Sarath Guttikunda suggests that $3.3-4.6 billion a year could be saved on India’s hospital bills.
“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.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com