Asia's coal addiction puts chokehold on its air-polluted cities

March 20, 2019, 7:42 pm | Admin

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Over the past year, the number of patients treated each day in the hospital unit where cardiologist Ade Imasanti Sapardan works in Indonesia’s capital has almost doubled to about 100.

Sapardan, who sees up to 150 people every week, cites worsening air pollution as a major reason for the rise in patients seeking treatment in the mega-city of Jakarta, home to 10 million people.

“People in Jakarta have bad pollution every day ... everybody is not really breathing safe air,” Sapardan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Half her patients suffer from symptoms linked to air pollution - like chest pains, coughing and breathlessness.

Nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a problem that impacts more cities in Asia than anywhere else in the world.

Burning fossil fuels is a large contributor to air pollution, which kills about 7 million people prematurely each year. Green campaigners and energy experts say Asia’s growing demand for coal-fired power is one key cause of that pollution.

Coal demand outside Asia peaked in 1988 and has since fallen by a third.

During the same period, it rose 3.5-fold in Asia, now the world’s main driver of coal-power demand, according to a report published late last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

“Cities with the worst air pollution are all in Asia and a lot of it is to do with coal,” said Nikos Tsafos, a CSIS researcher.

“The region has such huge economic growth and potential, where the desire to bring electricity to people trumps all other concerns.”

An air quality report published by Greenpeace and IQAir AirVisual this month showed that the world’s 100 most polluted cities are largely in Asia - with India and China dominating.

Last modified on March 20, 2019, 7:43 pm | 1604