New Greenpeace International research released today, on World Water Day, finds that coal power plants around the world consume enough freshwater to sustain one billion people. One photographer in India documented the impacts on communities...

Coal power plant impact on water usage in India

It’s only the first week of March, but the weather has already turned curiously dry and hot; the harsh wind permeating through the car as we drive through remote Maharashtra. Located in the western region of India, Maharashtra is one of the wealthiest and most developed states, home to the glittering capital of Mumbai. But where we are, is far away from any type of plentiful and resourceful area.

What we see are acres of dried fields full of burnt crops; people carrying large water pots; long queues beside a deep tube well or water tanker; dried canals connecting dams with nearby villages. Over four days and travelling almost 1,500 km these sights are common as I document the drought-affected villages in Solapur, Beed and Osmanabad districts in Maharashtra. 

Coal power plant impact on water usage in IndiaVillagers in Beed district have to travel far to collect water due to the poor rainfall in 2015, making it one of the worse affected districts by the drought.

The World Economic Forum has listed water security as one of the most tangible and fastest-growing social, political and economic challenges faced today. The high water intensity of global energy generation is creating a need for an analysis of water-coal conflict caused by coal power production.

Released on World Water Day, Greenpeace has prepared a groundbreaking analysis of the impacts of the world’s coal power plants on global water resources. The results show that the world’s coal power plants are consuming an amount of water that could meet the basic requirements for 1 billion people.

Coal power plant impact on water usage in IndiaKhomnal Village pond at Mangalwheda taluka, Maharashtra serves primarily as recharge for ground water sources in the village. The pond usually has water around the year

Coal power plant impact on water usage in IndiaFarmer Arjun Kashinath Kumbad (75) from Borda village, Maharashtra, at a cattle fodder camp at Andora village. He has around four acres of farm in his village but the low and untimely rainfall of last year led to the complete loss of the crop.

Globally 44 percent of the proposed coal power plants are in areas categorized as high water stress. Among them, a quarter are situated in red-list areas, which are at risk of running out of water. Among the globally critical areas are western China, such as Inner Mongolia, and Central India such as Maharastra. In these areas a conflict with other water users like farmers and food production is already happening.

Coal power plant impact on water usage in IndiaBarrels for water storage are selling at a high rate in Maharashtra

Coal power plant impact on water usage in IndiaA shepherd family during their journey near Ausa, Maharashtra.

Water is for life, not coal. Take action.

Subrata Biswas is an independent photo journalist.