We all are very much familiar with the term power plant, also known as a power station. It is an industrial facility to generate electricity to meet up our daily life electricity demand. There are various types of power plants that exist worldwide to produce such as Nuclear power plants, Hydroelectric power plants, Coal-fired power plants, Diesel-fired power plants, Geothermal power plants, Gas-fired power plants, Solar power plants, Wind power plants, etc. Power plants that uses non-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil, natural gas as their primary source of energy have greater environmental impacts.

A coal-based power plant produces electricity by burning the coal as their primary energy source. Most of the countries use coal as primary energy sources for its reliability, affordability, abundance, and safety (safe than nuclear power plants). In terms of environment and human health safety, coal plays a very dark role. Studies found that more than 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge are created by a typical coal power plant of 500MW. Globally, the use and burning of power plants account for 46% percent of the CO2 emission alone in terms of man-made climate change consequences. Moreover, coal dominant up to 72% of entire greenhouse gas emission from the energy sector. Coal-based power plants also have severe negative impacts on the surrounding environment and beyond as the particles emitted from coal-fired power stations can transport and deposit trace metals miles away from their generated source.

The waste generated from coal power plants degrades the land surface and nearby water quality. Around 75% of the generated waste from a coal power plants is discarded in unlined, unmonitored onsite landfills. Generated waste also directly dumped into the nearby waterbodies which threatens the living of aquatic flora and fauna by creating thermal pollution.

The air pollutants generated from the coal-fired power plants affects the coal worker and nearby human health too. Coal fired power plants generated air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monooxides responsible for acid rain that damages forests, lakes, buildings and human health by causing lung diseases, several respiratory diseases, premature death etc to name a few. A study in the United States found that about 4 thousand coal workers died in the time frame of 1968-2011-time frame due to the emission consequences of Coal-based power plants, and others workers carrying the after-effects of the emissions throughout their life. Waste from the power plants includes some toxic substances like arsenic, mercury, chromium, and cadmium that get to mix with the drinking water supplies and cause severe damage to human organs and the nervous system.

The surrounding ecosystem also gets severely affected by the greenhouse gas emissions, mining destruction, generation of million tons of wastes, emissions of harmful substances by  coal-fired power plant which ultimately leads to smog, acid rain, global warming, and air toxics.

Well, various environmental organizations coming forward and raising their voice to restrict finance in coal-based power plants. Recently, ADB has announced to stop financing for coal-based power plants in the future. Many countries like the Netherlands, Finland switching to renewable energy sources for the sake of the mother environment. But still, a lot more work needed to be done to stop operating the coal-based power plants.

A coal-based power plant endangering environmental health as well as human health both locally and globally but most of the countries especially the developing ones are still constructing it ignoring the severity which is needed to be stopped in no time.

About the Author: Aivee Akther is a recent graduate and has completed her bachelor’s in Environmental Science and Disaster Management discipline from Daffodil International University Dhaka, Bangladesh. Currently, she is working as a researcher and her area of interest include climate change, clean energy, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), waste management, antibiotic resistance. Besides, she is an environmentalist, youth advocate, and a writer.

Editor name: Madiha Razzaq