Nearly 72% of India’s electricity is generated from thermal power plants. Despite its cost to the environment—burning coal produces carbon dioxide, and pollutants like mercury and sulpher dioxide, linked to acid rain—coal power has survived. Among others, one of the main reason is that it is one of the “cheaper” ways of producing electricity.
A recent study by two Tamil-Nadu based organizations questions this notion. Titled Coal Ash in India: A compendium of disasters, environment and health risks, the study tracks the impact of coal-ash on local communities and the environment. Over the past 10 years, says the study, coal-ash pollution caused 76 major accidents, a number of ‘minor’ accidents and a spike in chronic health conditions among the communities living around the thermal power stations.