Monday, December 26, 2011

Thermal projects, Chattisgarh threaten Mahanadi

Thermal projects, Chattisgarh threaten Mahanadi

Siba Mohanty Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: The Mahanadi, Orissa’s lifeline, is at the mercy of thermal power projects (TPPs) and Chhattisgarh. If the existing plants in Orissa are not sucking it dry, those in Chhattisgarh __ on the upstream of the river __ soon will. Similarly, if the fate of the deltaic region of Orissa hinges on what Chhattisgarh does with the storm water during the monsoon, the river system’s survival now solely depends on what the neighbouring state plans to arrest the depletion of water flow.

It is a Catch-22 situation for Orissa. Its ambition for development has led to such a surge in industrialisation that it has committed itself to a spree of TPPs, thanks to the massive coal reserve. Most of the existing and proposed projects are dependent on Mahanadi and its tributaries for water. What complicates the scenario is Chhattisgarh’s greed to exploit the coal reserves and Ministry of Environment and Forest’s so-called green plans.

In the last five years, 24 thermal power projects have been given environmental clearance (EC) by the Ministry. The combined installed capacity of these projects, according a paper by Centre for Science and Environment, stands at 19,443 mega watt (MW). Chhattisgarh accounts for 19 coal-based TPPs with a total capacity of 16,533 MW while Orissa has five with 2,910 MW. All these power projects will draw water from Mahanadi and its tributaries and the total consumption is projected at a whopping 1.55 million cubic metre (MCM) per day.

The future is even more bleak. Chhattisgarh is aiming at a total installed capacity of 56,000 MW while Orissa is looking at 34,000 MW. According to rough estimates, 1,000 MW power generation requires 4,000 litre per hour which means if all the projects see the light of the day, they will consume three to four times the total domestic water consumption of the State. “Most of the water will have to be fed by Mahanadi. What’s awaiting the State is nothing less than disaster in the decades to come since the drawing of water from Mahanadi will jump astronomically,” said Ranjan Panda of Water Initiative Orissa.

Forest and Environment Department sources agree. When the industries sign MoUs and water is committed to them, the allocation is made based on mathematical calculations. “No one knows what the scenario will be when the adequate volume of water is not available from the river. This has led to a growing conflict between industries, and local communities and farmers, said an officer, unwilling to be named.

Such has been the pressure on Mahanadi that Chhattisgarh has begun to act cautiously. An assessment showed that water flow at Kashdol on Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh ranged between 3,000 MCM and 10,000 MCM in the last decade. It has now dropped to 1,528 MCM. “Alarmed by the reduction, Chhattisgarh Government has planned at least 600 check dams to arrest 30 per cent of the available flow on Mahanadi.” This, experts say, will decide how Orissa lives in the decades to come.


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