Around one lakh people died prematurely as a result of emissions from coal-fired power stations in India in 2012, a new study has claimed.
This is the first ever assessment of death and disease due to emissions from the country's coal power sector, and is based on a database of 111 coal power plants representing a generation capacity of 121 GW.
The report also reveals the extent of other emissions -related health impacts on the quality of life of millions of Indians.
The study shows that there are millions of cases of asthma, respiratory distress and heart disease attributable to emissions from coal fired power stations, at a cumulative cost to the public of between USD 3.3 and 4.6 billion.
The study, conducted by Dr Sarath Guttikunda and Puja Jawahar of Delhi-based group Urban Emissions was commissioned by Conservation Action Trust in partnership with Greenpeace.
The results show that the burden of death and disease is not evenly spread. Due to power plant concentrations, wind patterns and population density, the Delhi-Haryana region and the Kolkata-West Bengal-Jharkhand region are the most severely hit, with an estimated 8,800 and 14,900 deaths in 2012 respectively.
The MP-Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand-Odisha coal regions (covering Korba, Singrauli and Talcher) also figure high up in the list, with up to 11,000 deaths.
Other regions recording high death rates include Mumbai and western Maharashtra, Eastern Andhra Pradesh and the Chandrapur-Nagpur region in Vidarbha.
"Thousands of lives can be saved every year if India tightens its particulate emissions standards, introduces emission limits for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury and institutes mandatory monitoring of emissions at plant stacks, making the data publicly available in real time," said Guttikunda, TED Fellow and an adjunct faculty at the Desert Research Institute (Reno, USA).