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Coal has been a mainstay of Indian energy. It accounts for 63% of India’s energy consumption, and demand is set to grow dramatically over the coming decades. Coal use for electricity generation is projected to grow 2% every year, almost doubling its share of India’s generating capacity by 2030. According to the International Energy Agency, India is likely to become the second-largest consumer of coal, surpassing the United States in the next five years.
Because coal is both cheap and abundant domestically, it may seem like the perfect solution to India’s energy and electricity woes. However, using coal comes with severe health, environmental, and economic effects. As quality of life improves for most Indians on one hand from economic progress, many could be subject to the vagaries of this dirty pollutant. Also, as the world moves closer to a consensus on climate change, using coal at this growing rate may become untenable.
Two recent studies shed light on the huge environmental damage that is done by coal-fired power plants in India. Professor Maureen Cropper and her co-authors at the University of Maryland estimated premature cardiopulmonary deaths associated with air emissions from 89 power plants from all over India. Last week, Professor Cropper presented their analysis in a World Bank seminar. Their study attributes on average 650 deaths per plant per year to directly emitted sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions from coal plants.
Another recent study published by Greenpeace and authored by Sarath Guttikunda and Puja Jawahar presents more dramatic results than the Cropper study. It suggests that in 2011-2012, emissions from Indian coal plants resulted in 80,000 to 115,000 premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases from exposure to particulate pollution with an associated cost of $3.3 billion to $4.6 billion.
The World Health Organization’s recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Assessment estimates that outdoor air pollution causes 620,000 premature deaths per year in India, a six fold increase since 2000. The main causes are growing emissions of particulate emissions (PM10) from transport and power plants. GBD in this analysis has ranked air pollution as the sixth most dangerous killer in South Asia and fifth leading cause of deaths in India.
Also, according to the WHO, across the G-20 economies, 13 of the 20 most polluted cities are in India and over 50% of the sites studied across India had critical levels of PM10 pollution. A recent rapid survey by Delhi based Center for Science and Environment revealed that almost 75% of respondents considered air pollution as a major cause of concern and as responsible for respiratory illnesses.
At the 9th South Asia Economics Students' Meet on Green Growth, participants shared their vision about South Asian cities of the future. These are their innovative ideas.
South Asia, home to 1.3 billion people, houses some of the world's largest cities: Delhi, Dhaka, Kolkata, Karachi and Mumbai. As urbanization increases, the region will experience a hike in demand, consumption and production. Today, in Bhutan, 34% of the population still lives without electricity. With urbanization and development, carbon emissions from electricity generation and usage are bound to rise. Historically, it can be seen that the more developed a country, the greater its carbon emissions; USA's and Canada's drastic emission rates corroborate this. Although South Asia currently contributes much less to the carbon footprint than the more developed nations of the world, it is imperative to plan development so as to reduce its impact on environment.
It was a 4:30am wake-up call on a cold morning in Delhi for my flight to Lucknow. I stepped into the shower… only to find cold water. Not the best start of a day I have had!
When I got back from my trip a few days later, I asked the building manager why there had been no hot water at that time. “Sir” he said, “it is solar; 4:30 is too early!"
I had to think about that for a while. Different perspectives raced through my mind: First, I thought it was great that the water heating was solar and thus running on clean energy. After that, I thought that it was a real pity we do not know how to store solar energy so that we could still have hot water at 4:30 in the morning. After that again, I actually felt it was perfectly OK not to have hot water at 4:30 in the morning: we will not be able to solve our energy problems without some compromises for those of us who have hot water at all. And that brought me to the most important realization: millions and millions of people were waking up at the same time as I did, but theirs was a dark winter morning because they do not have electricity to turn on a light bulb, let alone get hot water for a bath.
Ulrich Bartsch, the World Bank's outgoing senior country economist for India, will lead a 24-hour live chat on the World Bank India Facebook page. He and other experts will be discussing the Bank's latest India Economic Update. The chat will begin Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 4:30 p.m. India Standard Time (7 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the United States). Here, he provides a sneak preview.
India’s economic growth has slowed to a pace not seen since the beginning of the 2000s. At the same time, the current account deficit has reached a record high. We project growth in the current fiscal year to reach around 6%, a slowdown from the already low 6.5% growth in the previous year. This growth projection is predicated on an improving domestic and external environment, but the risks for a worse outcome are high.
Introduction by Kalpana Kochhar, chief economist of the South Asia Region
This summer, I wrote about keeping India’s promise alive and realizing its great potential. As I said then, energy reforms are crucial if the country is to boost growth. In the wake of the world’s largest blackout, which left 600 million people in India without power, two World Bank colleagues have written an op-ed about examples India can turn to, at home and abroad, as it seeks to tackle seemingly insurmountable power issues. Ashish Khanna is a senior energy specialist in the Bank’s New Delhi office, and Jyoti Shukla is energy sector manager for the South Asia region. Here are excerpts from their article, which appeared in the Hindustan Times: