Skip to main content

Why continued obsession with adding more 'water guzzling' coal, nuclear power plants?

By Shankar Sharma* 

The true concerns over water inefficiency in coal power plants have been known and have been highlighted many times in the past. A highly relevant study report by Prayas Energy Group had highlighted this fast looming threat to our society many years ago. But our authorities have been acting as though there can be no issue with water supply, and that additional coal power plants can be added indefinitely; even without any true relevance to climate change.
A "Down to Earth" report points to how it is imperative to improve water efficiency in India’s coal-fired thermal power plants. "Massive water withdrawal will not only have repercussions on the watersheds across India but will ultimately interrupt the functioning of the power plant during the lean periods", it says.
It is not just the enormous magnitude of the consumptive use of fresh water in coal power plants, at the cost of people's needs, which should have been of serious concern. Whatever little is allowed back into the river is polluted, and the ash ponds also pollute the underground water table, while the forest felling for the associated reasons have been minimised the rain water percolation into the underground water table.
These facts have been known for decades, and the red flags have been shown frequently. But the powerful lobbying for meeting the ever increasing demand for electricity by urban areas and industries has been too much for our authorities not to be influenced negatively.
In this context, we should also emphasise the issue with the vast quantities of fresh water required for nuclear power plants of which the Union government has plans to build massive numbers in the near future in "fleet mode" of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). (See: India working on small, factory-built N-reactors, nod for 10 under 'fleet mode')
Our authorities also need to bear in mind that in the context of global warming, not only the average temp. of river water is getting increased, but also the quantity of water flow in rivers is getting reduced with the passage of each year.
Have they diligently considered the associated risks being posed for the operating nuclear reactors; especially in the context that many operating nuclear reactors in Europe and the US are reported to be forced to be shut down in peak summer months due to these factors?
In this ongoing madness of obsession to add more of such water guzzling power plants, it is almost impossible to notice any concern for the true welfare of humans and animals, which are dependent on adequate supply of potable water.
Associated threats are much more serious to states such as Karnataka, which is already known as the foremost state in water scarcity
In summary, it can be stated as a policy irresponsibility to continue to establish more power plants based on coal and nuclear power technology; especially without a clear policy perspective (national energy policy?) and without due diligence such as effective public consultation.
But who cares for such Central Electricity Authority (CEA) reports, which have been conveniently ignored in the past too. Multiple alternatives available to our country to satisfactorily meet the legitimate demand for electricity seem to be of not much interest to our authorities.
With the continued and wanton destruction of original forest and tree cover in the name of developmental projects all over the country, and with the unscientific withdrawal of water from fresh water bodies for irrigation and other usage, the repercussions on the watersheds across India can only get worse with the passage of each month.
The associated threats are much more serious to states such as Karnataka, which is already known as the foremost state in water scarcity; which has no coal reserve of its own; and also has poor forest ad tree cover, but which is persisting with building more coal and nuclear power plants. What sort of welfare perspective can we notice in such unsubstantiated policies/ practices?
Can we realistically expect the power ministry, NITI Aayog and PMO to diligently consider such strategic issues of existential threat to our people, instead of focusing only on a high GDP growth rate paradigm, because of which the increase in demand for electricity is incessant?
*Power & Climate Policy Analyst



'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

How US is using Tibetans to provoke conflict with China 'ignoring' India

By Lobsang Tenzin*  On July 12, US President Joe Biden signed the Resolve Tibet Act, and Tibetans cheered for it, believing that the law promotes a resolution of the dispute between Tibet and China. Is this true? First, let's look at the issue of the ownership of Tibet. 

August 9 to be observed as Corporates Quit India day: Top farmers' group

By Our Representative A recent general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the top farmers' organisation, stated hat "there is no need for any illusion of change in the pro-corporate policies of the BJP-NDA government" following the recent elections in which BJP failed to achieve even simple majority. It insisted,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi "is hell bent" to continue 'business as usual' policies.

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.

Tribals from 60 villages observe seed festival to 'protect' diversity of indigenous seeds

By Bharat Dogra*  Nearly sixty villagers are sitting on an open floor covered by a roof for shade but otherwise open on all sides. Women and men are present in equal numbers but the visibility of women is higher because of their colorful dresses.