NEW DELHI: India’s fresh water resources, already rapidly dwindling, could be further depleted if plans for hundreds of new coal power plants go ahead and this would cause severe drought and worsen the ongoing conflict between agriculture and industry in the country, said a report released today.
The report by Greenpeace International ‘The Great Water Grab: How the coal industry is deepening the global water crisis’ said that 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.
It further said 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. China tops the list with 237 GW followed by India 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.
In all, over 40 percent of the proposed Indian coal fleet is in highly stressed water use areas in regions such as Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka. If all proposed coal plants are actually built, India’s coal fleet will double its current water consumption to 15.33 billion m3/year – more than any other nation, including China.
The report is the first global plant-by-plant study of the coal industry’s current and future water demand and also identifies the countries and regions that will be most impacted. 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 percent of the available water. This means that the groundwater is being depleted or inter-basin transfers are being resorted to.
In addition, 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, in addition to the others mentioned earlier. These regions are extremely vulnerable to drought and yet hundreds of water guzzling coal plants are proposed here.
"A phase out of coal plants in over-withdrawal areas in India could lead to water savings of over 1 billion m3 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 billion m3 of water consumption per year," said Jai Krishna, campaigner from Greenpeace India.
Post the Paris climate agreement in 2015, as countries start to tackle climate change and move towards 100 percent renewable energy, India could be forced to choose between a continued expansion of coal based electricity and meeting the basic water requirements of citizens and farmers.