World August 13, 2015 | 10:12 am

Research from Harvard reveals health impacts of Indonesia’s coal plants

Jakarta.- Existing coal plants in Indonesia cause anestimated 7,100 premature deaths every year according to research by HarvardUniversity and Greenpeace Southeast Asia – the first of its kind to look atillness and deaths associated with Indonesia’s coal-fired power plants. Thisnumber could climb to over 28,000 per year if the Indonesian government goesahead with an ambitious rollout of more than one hundred new coal-fired powerplants.

These worryingfigures are based on new atmospheric modeling conducted by a research team atHarvard University’s Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group, using a cutting edgeatmospheric chemistry-transport model, GEOS-Chem.

“President Jokowi hasa choice: stay with a business-as-usual approach to generating electricity andsee the lives of thousands of Indonesians cut short, or lead the switch andrapid expansion to safe, clean, renewable energy,” said Hindun Mulaika, Climateand Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Every new coal-firedpower plant means elevated health risks for Indonesian people. Lives are cut short through strokes, heartattacks, lung cancer and other cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Thehealth impacts sadly also include deaths of many young children,” said Hindun.

“The proposed “cleancoal” power plant at Batang alone could cause 30,000 premature deaths over anoperating life of 40 years. But the good news is that the President’s choicejust became a lot clearer Indonesia has the opportunity to leapfrog dirtytechnologies and follow other world leaders making the switch to clean energy.This would result in a healthier, safer and more prosperous population,” saidHindun.

The report, The HumanCost of Coal, is being launched on the back of the recent announcement by PresidentJokowi to build an additional 35 GW of new power plants, 22 GW of which wouldcome from coal power plants.

"Emissions fromcoal-fired power plants form particulate matter and ozone that are detrimentalto human health. Indonesia is one of the countries in the world with thelargest plans to expand coal-fired power generation, yet little has been doneto explore the associated health impacts.

Our results show thatplanned coal expansion could significantly increase pollution levels acrossIndonesia. The human health cost from this rising coal pollution should beconsidered when making choices about Indonesia’s energy future,” said the leadHarvard researcher in the project, Shannon Koplitz.

“New power generationin China, US, and the EU is already coming predominantly from renewables and2014 was the first year that renewable energy growth overtook fossil fuelgrowth globally.

China, which offers awarning example of where unfettered coal expansion could be taking Indonesia,is steering away from coal because of the horrendous toll on air quality andhealth,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace East Asia coal and air pollutionspecialist.

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