In March of 2013, Conservation Action Trust, Greenpeace India, and Urban Emissions revealed a shocking death toll from coal-fired power plants in India. They found that 80,000 to 115,000 people die every year from air pollution caused by coal plants. Their report thrust the 'silent killer' into the spotlight. With numbers as high as those, the groups were curious to figure out why coal was killing so many Indians. They commissioned a subsequent analysis (see analysis here) comparing Indian power plant air emissions standards with those of China and Japan. It turns out the reason is somewhat obvious and perhaps even more shocking: Indian standards are anywhere between four and twenty times worse than those in China.
That's right, China - home to the "airpocalypse" and 1.2 million deaths from air pollution - has stronger coal plant pollution standards than India.
But just how bad are India's standards? Glad you asked, because you'd be shocked to know they are quite literally off the charts (Check out the comparison below). That's because India doesn't even have standards for sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides - both of which lead to deadly Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 pollution (A quick note: The charts below use 'nominal' figures to show what emissions from an uncontrolled coal plant might look like).
To help you understand why these standards are so important in controlling pollution, it's important to distinguish between technology-based and health-based standards. Many countries employ a multi-tiered approach to managing air pollution using a mix of both technology-based requirements and health based limitations. The technology based requirements affect coal plants and are those that are described above.