Healthcare workers believe an increase in air pollution due to burning of coal will make it difficult to fight covid19 pandemic
June 15, 2020: A recent survey finds that 90% of the healthcare workers believe that PM Narendra Modi should focus on unleashing renewable energy and not unleash coal. The survey was conducted via Facebook by the Clean Air Collective, a coalition of civil society groups working on air pollution and health-related issues. According to the survey, 95% of the respondents believe that the burning of coal causes air pollution which in turn causes respiratory-related health issues.
The survey was conducted via Facebook and aimed towards those who identify as being healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and so on. Close to 258 respondents who affirmed being healthcare professionals as well as affirmed being aware of India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat plan.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat plan was announced as part of the covid19 economic recovery package. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had, on May 16, announced opening up the coal mining industry to the private sectors as part of that plan. The plan also included auctioning 50 new coal mines with an average life span of 50 years. The government hopes to attract foreign mining companies such as Rio Tinto and BHP even when many of these companies have started to move away from investing in the coal industry.
While all of the respondents were aware of PM Modi’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat plan, only 40% of the respondents were aware that the plan also included coal mine expansion. 95% of the respondents believe that burning more coal will lead to more air pollution. The survey found that 88% of healthcare workers believe that fighting pandemics such as covid19, that affect human respiratory systems, becomes all the more difficult if air pollution increases.
In 2018, the United Nations included air pollution as the 5th leading cause of death due to non-communicable diseases. A paper in The Lancet established that most comorbidities among COVID-19 patients are hypertension, diabetes, coronary and cardiovascular diseases, all direct result of high levels of air pollution. A paper by Xiao Wu and Rachel Nethery from Harvard University concluded that with every increase in PM2.5 microgram per cubic meter resulted in a 15% increase in covid19 deaths.
“The whole objective of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat plan was to be self-sufficient and increase our ability to deal with such pandemics. However coal should not be included in that plan since it will most certainly lead to increased air pollution and a host of troubles locally as well as in India’s broader energy policy”
Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends