Cluster of thermal power plants may escalate Vidarbha's existing agrarian crisis: Greenpeace

Press release - August 7, 2012
New Delhi, 7th August 2012: In the backdrop of a drought looming over the country, a new report (1) released by Greenpeace has found that large clusters of coal fired power plants proposed in Vidarbha may bring down the future availability of water in the Wardha river by 40% (2) and affect irrigation for about 1 lakh hectares (3) of farmland in the future.


The report based on an IIT-Delhi study(4) commissioned by Greenpeace on the Wardha basin for assessing the impacts of coal power plants was released and discussed in a roundtable held at New Delhi where experts on water and energy policy, environment and farmers from Vidarbha participated and shared their views on the issue.

Vidarbha region in Maharastra has a long history of under development. Many measures to offset the agrarian crisis in the region like the Prime Minister's debt relief assistance in 2006 has focussed extensively on developing assured irrigation facilities for farmers. Lack of irrigation facilities have been linked to suicides and agricultural distress by many independent studies and by the planning commission.

“It is not clear on what basis the state government of Maharashtra took the decision to divert more than 390 MCM from Vidarbha's reservoirs between 2003 and 2011. This diversion of water, without any assessment of its impact on irrigation and environmental flows needs immediate reconsideration. It goes against the present state water policy to prioritise irrigation needs over industry”, said Greenpeace Campaigner Jai Krishna.

02 August 2012

How thermal power plants are risking our water supply © Greenpeace


“The Vidarbha Statutory Development Board plans to allow 2050 MCM of water required to operate the 71 coal power plants that will produce 55,000 MW in Vidarbha. “Considering that both the state and the central governments know about the huge water needs of the proposed power plants, it appears like a cruel joke to offer debt relief funds to irrigation programmes when there may be no water to provide assured irrigation in the future” he added.

Further analysis of the study data indicated that the annual mean flow in the Wardha river varied from a maximum of 5600 MCM to a minimum of just 229 MCM, in the last 35 years. Considering the water requirement for coal power plants is about 550 MCM and if all the power plants will be commissioned in the future, then there may be no water available to operate them in at least one in ten years, forcing them to shutdown and risk power production.

“There has been a complete disconnect between clearances given to thermal power plants and power generation capacity proposed to be added by the 12th five year plan. A huge proportion of the proposed new additions are clustered in just 30 districts in the country. This lack of planning raises serious issues regarding the sustainability of each project with respect to the land and water required, fuel consumed and about the social equity of these projects, creating doubt whether they really address the genuine needs of the masses.” said Shripad Dharmadikary from Manthan Adyayan Kendra.

As of May 2011 last year(5), the central government has accorded environmental clearances for almost 200 GW of thermal power plants and about 500 GW of clearances are in the pipeline. The total clearances that might be accorded (about 700 GW) is 7 times more than power generation capacity proposed to be added (100GW) by the 12th five year plan. About 380 GW of this are proposed in just 30 districts.

Renewable energy can be a key component of the future energy needs of the country. Under the Energy [R]evolution scenario, a global energy roadmap, almost half of India’s power would be provided by renewable energy by 2030. This has a potential save approximately eight billion cubic metres of water in fossil fuel extraction and power generation enough to bring 1.6 million hectares under irrigation.

Greenpeace recommends an immediate moratorium on further environment clearances to coal power plants in Vidarbha as well as all the inland districts in the country. The existing clearances must be reexamined on the basis of a cumulative water impact and availability assessment in the river basins so that water conflicts between various users can be avoided and irrigation needs of farmers are not jeopardized.

For more information contact:

Jai Krishna. R, Campaigner, Climate and Energy, Greenpeace, +91 98455 91992,

Jagori Dhar, Media Officer, Greenpeace, +91 98112 00481,
Nitya Kaushik, Media Officer , +91 98199 02763,
(1) The report Endangered Waters can be downloaded at :
(2) The study indicates that the annual mean flow in the river would reduce from its present level of
1,419 million cubic meters (MCM) to a mere 867 MCM if all the proposed coal power plants are to be commissioned.
(3) Taking 5000m3 as the irrigation water for one hectare of single-cropped land.
(4) The full version of the IIT Delhi study can be accessed at:–case-study-of-wardha-technical-report.pdf
(5) Thermal Power Plants on the Anvil, Implications and Need for Rationalization. Prayas Energy
Group. August 2011.
(6) 1 TMCft = 28.3 Mcum