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Thermal power plants in water stress areas may lead to drought

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A quarter of new coal-based power plants proposed across the world are located in dwindling fresh water resources regions which may lead to a "severe drought" in those areas and India stands next to China in that list, a Greenpeace report said.

The report titled "The Great Water Grab: How the coal industry is deepening the global water crisis" said if government (in India) goes ahead with setting up of such thermal power plants in those areas where water is being used faster than it is being replenished naturally, then it will cause "severe drought" in regions like Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka.

Greenpeace also proposed an immediate moratorium on expansion of coal-based power plants in regions with high water stress and, a thorough analysis of water availability for all proposed new plants and transition from water-thirsty thermal power plants to solar and wind powers.

"The report has found that a quarter of globally proposed new coal plants are due to be located in regions already suffering from severe over-withdrawal of freshwater resources (which is called red-list areas).

"China tops the list with 237 Gigawatt (GW). India ranks second in this category with 52 GW of thermal power plants proposed in red-list areas and a further 122 GW proposed in high or extremely high water stress areas," said the report, a first global plant-by-plant study of the coal industry's current and future water demands.

The report also identifies the countries and regions that will be most impacted.

In totality, over 40 per cent of the proposed Indian coal fleet is in highly stressed water use areas and if all the proposed coal plants are actually built, India's coal fleet will double its current water consumption to 15.33 billion cubic metre/year - more than any other country, including China.

"Ten states in the country have declared drought so far due to the poor rainfall from the 2015 monsoon and some thermal power plants in Maharashtra and Karnataka have shut down because of lack of water," the report said.

The report said water scarcity is already affecting

operational power plants - the 1100 MW Parli power plant in Maharashtra has been shut down since July 2015 and four units of the 1720 MW Raichur power plant in Karnataka was recently shut down due to a lack of water.

It said NTPC Solapur power plant has faced commissioning delays and an ongoing threat to its financial viability due to water supply issues.

In India, large parts of Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are ranked as "over-withdrawal" areas, where demands on water exceed 100 per cent of the available water.

"A phase out of coal plants in over-withdrawal areas in India could lead to water savings of over 1 billion cubic metre (BCM) of annual water consumption.

"If plans to build the 52 GW of proposed coal plants in over withdrawal areas were scrapped, it would lead to savings of another 1.1 CBM of water consumption per year," said Jai Krishna, campaigner from Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace International said large parts of almost all major states are suffering moderate to high or extremely high water stress.

These include Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and West Bengal among others. These regions are vulnerable to drought and yet hundreds of water guzzling coal plants are proposed here, the NGO said.

First Published: Tue, March 22 2016. 18:29 IST