Scientists warn of pollution-related deaths in Indonesia, Vietnam

By VnExpress   January 16, 2017 | 11:32 am GMT+7
Scientists warn of pollution-related deaths in Indonesia, Vietnam
In Vietnam, electricity demand is expected to continue to grow 13 percent annually in the next four years to feed the economy. Photo by VnExpress Photo Contest/Trong Dat

Unless new coal plants in energy hungry SE Asia are scrapped, more will die.

Coal emissions in Southeast Asia may triple by 2030, resulting in tens of thousands of pollution-related deaths every year with Indonesia and Vietnam projected to have the highest fatality numbers, according to a new study from Harvard University and Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace said in a statement late last week that if coal plants currently planned or under construction in Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are actually built, there could be some 70,000 deaths annually, up from around 20,000 now.

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A graphic released as part of the study. Source: Harvard University/Greenpeace

“Reliance on coal in emerging Southeast Asian countries will have substantial and long-lasting impacts on air quality and public health," said Shannon Koplitz, lead researcher in the project from Harvard University. "These significant human health costs should be considered when making choices about Southeast Asia’s energy future."

The group of scientists projected that Indonesia and Vietnam would see the largest increases in coal emissions, and as a result, the highest number of premature deaths.

Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, said in the new statement that countries in Southeast Asia have the chance now to "leapfrog dirty, outdated technology like coal and move to renewable energy."

Southeast Asia is one of the fastest developing regions in the world and requires more energy to drive growth. In Vietnam, electricity demand is expected to continue to grow 13 percent annually in the next four years to feed the economy, which has grown above 5 percent a year on average since 1999 and is forecast to reach 6.5-7 percent in the next four years.

The Vietnamese government has recently revised down the target for electricity generation by coal-fired thermal power plants from 56.4 percent of the total electricity generation to 53.2 percent by 2030.

"Vietnam already took the first step by cancelling 17 large coal-fired power plants, reducing the projected health impacts from the country’s massive coal expansion by more than one fourth," Greenpeace's Myllyvirta said.

Greenpeace has pointed out that among developed countries, Japan and South Korea stand out as the only ones to keep pursuing new coal-fired power plants. Meanwhile, China, the world’s largest emitter, has seen an overall decrease in coal consumption and associated pollutant emissions since 2013.

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