Health costs of pollution in India 8 times of govt's fuel subsidy

New Delhi: In a shocking report that has emerged on Wednesday by a European environmental non-profit organisation, India reportedly spent $16.9 billion on oil, gas and coal subsidies in the year 2013 and 2014 but the health costs to meet the burden of air pollution-linked diseases was eight times higher at $140.7 billion. 

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) analysed the spending of seven economically powerful countries on fossil fuel subsidies and the health costs associated with fossil fuel subsidies.

The report, 'Hidden Price Tags', said India can provide 375 million households with solar lamps or train nearly 32,000 extra doctors for rural areas with its annual spend on fossil fuels subsidies. This was assessed considering that each solar lamp costs about $22.5 and the recent estimate of All India Institute of Medical Science which put the cost of training a doctor at Rs 1.7 crore. The subsidy amount could fund 24 per cent of the total money needed to implement health care coverage for all Indians, the report suggests.

Making a case for spending fossil fuel subsidy money on public health instead, the report released on Thursday claimed that G20 governments spent about $444 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel companies in 2014, but the health costs of these subsidies in the form of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as premature deaths, were as high as $2.76 trillion, six times the subsidy amount.

The report calls for reallocation of fossil fuel subsidies because they increase the price gap between fossil fuels and renewables, which makes fossil fuels seem cheaper and discourages investment in green energy.  HEAL has used a combination of data provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International (OCI) to arrive at their findings. For subsidy estimates, data from ODI and OCI were used for 2013 and 2014, which includes national subsidies delivered through direct spending and tax breaks, investments by state owned enterprises and public finance from government owned banks.