Air quality, health and toxics impacts of the proposed coal power cluster in Payra, Bangladesh

Bangladesh is among the countries most affected by air pollution, with the life expectancy in the country reduced by almost 2 years due to the impacts of pollution exposure on health. The high levels of air pollution are currently putting the Bangladeshi population at an elevated risk from the unfolding COVID-19 epidemic.

Hilsha fishing in Bangladesh.

Threatening to worsen this situation is a large number of proposed coal-fired power plants, the sixth largest pipeline in the world, combined with very lax emission standards for such plants.

A hotspot for these coal power expansion plans is a massive cluster of coal-fired power plants, with a total of 8 power plants with 16 boilers and a total capacity of 9.8 gigawatts is being proposed in Payra, Bangladesh, making it the second-largest in South Asia and fourth-largest in the world. This report assesses the impacts of these power plants, finding that:

  • The coal-fired power plants proposed in Payra would constitute one of the largest air pollutant, mercury and CO2 emissions hotspots in South Asia and the world.
  • The plants would emit an estimated 600-800 kg of mercury per year into the air, of which one third would be deposited into land and freshwater ecosystems in Bangladesh. Most of the deposition takes place onto cropland and into waterways, increasing the mercury concentrations in food. The levels of mercury deposition are potentially dangerous in an area with 500,000 – 1,500,000 inhabitants. This does not include releases into water which would add to the impact.
  • The air pollutant emissions from the plants would be responsible for a projected 18,000-35,000 air pollution-related deaths over an operating life of 30 years. Other health impacts include 71,000 asthma emergency room visits, 15,000 new cases of asthma in children, 39,000 preterm births, 26 million days of work absence (sick leave) and 57,000 years lived with disability related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and stroke.

Presentation at report launch press conference.

Read the full report: Bengali

Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst