Korba coal communities more vulnerable to COVID-19: Study


People living near thermal power plants in Korba, Chattisgarh has greater exposure to particulate matter resulting in higher respiratory illnesses than the general population.

Image Source: Mayank Aggarwal/Mongabay-India

This was revealed in a recent study released by Chhattisgarh’s State Health Resource Centre (SHRC) which assessed the health impact on communities in Korba living near coal-fired thermal power plants.

At a time when the country is in a lockdown due to the coronavirus threat which attacks the respiratory system, the SHRC study establishes the vulnerability of this group to threats like COVID-19.  

Korba home to world’s 2nd largest open cast mines

Since Korba has the world’s second-largest open cast mines and 10 power plants which produce 6000MW of electricity. 

Korba is particularly affected by emissions from thermal power plants, dumping of fly ash and ash slurry in the air and outflow of coolant water into the river impacting the flora, fauna and fish resources, groundwater contamination from coal storage yards and ash ponds. 

Study reveals elevated prevalence of respiratory diseases among the exposed population

In this cross-sectional study, samples from exposed populations living within a 10-km radius of the power plants in Korba and samples of the unexposed population of village Katghora about 20 kilometres away from Korba were compared. 

The findings of the health study show significantly elevated prevalence of respiratory diseases like asthma symptoms and bronchitis among the exposed population in Korba than unexposed ones in Katghora. As per the findings, asthma symptoms and bronchitis were 11.79% and 2.96% among the exposed group while 5.46% and 0.99% respectively in the unexposed group.

Process of continuous monitoring of health needed in Korba: Executive Director, SHRC

Dr. Prabir Chatterjee, Executive Director of SHRC said, “This study is important as it documents the health burden of the population due to the operations of the power plants. Studies like this help us identify clusters of vulnerable populations.”

He added, “They help us design services that are most needed for them. Not just during normal circumstances but also during pandemics like COVID. For Korba, we need a process of continuous monitoring of health. And we need a robust health system dedicated to mitigation of the air pollution-related problems among the residents. 

“These parts of Chhattisgarh, the land of many Adivasi communities have been turned into a toxic estate of coal mining and power generation. It is true that electricity is essential to our lives, but it is high time we factored in the suffering of people who live in these areas into the provision of our needs. We cannot go about treating them as collateral damage in the interest of the “greater good,” said Manju Menon, Senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research. 


Lmb Staff

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