Skip to main content

Half of India's coal power plants don't comply by 'limits' set on water use: RTI reply

By Shripad Dharmadhikary, Sehr Raheja*
It is almost a month since the normal onset date of the monsoon, and headlines have been dominated by situation of drought and water scarcity over large areas of the country. Under the circumstances, it is a matter of serious concern that many thermal power plants – heavy water guzzlers and the largest industrial user of water – are failing to comply with the legally binding limits on how much water they are allowed to use.
This situation has been revealed by information obtained under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) by Manthan Adhyayan Kendra.
Coal based thermal power plants (TPPs) consume vast quantities of accounting for close to 70% of all water used for industrial purposes in India. Given this, thermal power plants can cause significant water stress in the local area, especially if they are present in clusters.
In December 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) brought out a notification that set limits for the first time on how much water a thermal power plant can use per unit of electricity generated, called “specific water consumption”.
These regulations mandated that TPPs set up before January 1, 2017 should not use more than 3.5 Cubic Meters / MWh of water (equivalent to 3.5 litres of water per unit (KWh) of electricity generated) and those built after the date cannot exceed 3 Cubic meters/MWh. Power plants using sea water are exempted from this, and all plants had to meet the norms within two years of the notification, that is, by December 2017.
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) had noted in a report in 2012 that TPPs were consuming 5-7 Cubic Meters/ MWh of water. Every reduction of 0.5 Cubic meters/MWh in the specific consumption of a 1000 MW plant will save enough water in a year to irrigate 700 ha of land; or provide drinking and domestic use water to 68,000 people for an entire year. Thus, the cutting down of water consumption by TPPs has huge benefits for the local areas especially in water stressed areas.

Only 51% plants meet regulations

We could obtain compliance status (self-reported) for thermal power plants or units from 12 states. Just about 51% of the plants were found to be in compliance with the regulations.
Out of the total 156 plants/units for which we could obtain the status, 66 claimed that they complied with the water consumption limits, while 30 admitted that they were non-compliant. For another 46 plants, either data was not available, or replies were ambiguous or the plants were closed. As other 14 plants were using sea water, they are exempted from the regulations.
What is equally important is that this compliance status is self-reported status by the various power plants. These figures or status have not been verified either by the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) or any other independent agencies.
These 156 plants included a number of smaller, captive power plants. If we consider only the major power plants (those being monitored by the Central Electricity Authority in its Daily Generation Report or DGR list), then the number of plants for which we could get information was only 75, and in this 34 plants were compliant with the norms and 22 were not.
Thermal power plants: Status of compliance to water consumption norm

Issues of concern with compliance information

There are other serious issues of concern with the compliance data and information we received under the RTI applications.
Self-reporting, no independent verification: The status of compliance with the regulations of water consumption is entirely self-reported by the respective power plants with no verification from any credible, independent agency.
Some states gave no information, most did not give for all power plants: Out of RTI applications filed with 15 states, we did not get information for even one TPP from three states – Bengal, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Most states did not give information about all the TPPs in the states, leading us to wonder whether the states are actually monitoring compliance by all the plants or just passively collecting information from whichever plant submits it, and ignoring others.
No uniform format for information given: There was no uniform format in which the information was provided to us in spite of the fact that there is a prescribed standard format for reporting compliance with the regulations.
Information given is old in many cases: In many cases, the information provided to us was several months old, or even from earlier years, raising the question as to whether the collection of compliance information is being done on a regular basis.
There was also inadequate, evasive or impossible to understand information.

Lack of seriousness in PCBs to ensure implementation of norms

Neither the MoEFCC, nor the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) which are responsible for monitoring the compliance with regulations, seem to be serious about enforcing the norms.
The compliance monitoring figures are not in public domain. The only action that SPCBs seem to be taking in cases of non-compliance is to write to the plants to comply.
Issues of concern with compliance information There are other serious issues of concern with the compliance data and information we received under the RTI applications.
Futher, CPCB / MoEFCC have tried to allow the thermal power plants an open ended extension of time period to meet the standards in a manner that is legally questionable. Just as the deadline to meet the norms ended on December 7, 2017, the CPCB wrote, on December 11 2017, to all power plants, stating among other things that “the time line for compliance of water consumption limit shall also be finalised in consultation of plants.”
This is not only a patent conflict of interest situation but provides an ideal opportunity for rent seeking. Not only that, the time limit for meeting the norms is open-ended, but also there is no time period given by which the deadline has to be set. This effectively makes it an open ended exemption to the plants, making the regulation meaningless. 
Given this, the CPCB letter’s legality is questionable. As such, the legality of these directions is also being questioned by lawyers, as they claim that the powers delegated to CPCB cannot be used to extend deadline but only to ensure compliance.

Recommendations

  1. All SPCBs and the CPCB must ensure that all TPPs meet the water consumption norms given in the Dec 2015 Notification with immediate effect, as the deadline has long passed.
  2. Without prejudice to (1) above, where new deadlines are needed, the respective SPCBs must immediately set them and make them public. In any case, these deadlines should not be beyond Sept 2019. 
  3. All SPCBs should collect the data related to compliance with these water consumption norms in a regular manner. 
  4. Such data should be in the uniform, prescribed format for all TPPs no matter in which state. 
  5. All this data along with the compliance status should be put out suo moto in public domain. 
  6. Compliance can be self-reported, but verification by independent credible agencies and the SPCBs is a must. 
  7. SPCBs should initiate action against those not meeting regulations, and put that in public domain so that local communities can follow up. 
---
*Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune. This is the summary of the paper "Wide-spread Non-Compliance as Thermal Power Plants don’t Meet Water Use Norms"

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

Across the board, among Muslims, Hindus, there's enormous fury at Delhi Police: Report

Counterview Desk
A quick report, prepared by Delhi's concerned citizens, "Let Us Heal Our Dilli", based on one-day visit (February 27) to several areas and mohallas of North East Delhi affected by the riots that gripped the country's capital -- Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Chaman Park, Shiv Vihar, Main Mustafabad (including Bhagirathi Vihar and Brijpuri) -- has said everywhere there is "zero trust" towards that the police.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.