Over 55,000 MW thermal power plants, planned in the drought prone Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, could drastically reduce the future water availability of Wardha and Wainganga Rivers, a Greenpeace report has revealed.

Greenpeace, which specially commissioned IIT-Delhi for the report, said that the additional demand imposed by plants in Vidarbha could reduce the water availability for irrigation and other uses in the region by 40 per cent in Wardha and 17 per cent in Wainganga river.

Wardha is one of the biggest rivers, while Wainganga is a smaller river in the region.

The environmental non-government organisation (NGO), in a statement, said that the 55,000 MW (as of 2010) coal-based power plants planned in the region would require 2,050 million cubic metres (MCM) or about 72 thousand million cubic metre of fresh water.

The rivers will supply 1,700 MCM of water, which otherwise would have irrigated about 3,40,000 hectares of farmland.

Vidarbha has long been classified as an under-developed region with a historical backlog of development across many sectors like irrigation, infrastructure and electrification. Irrigation is the least developed of all.

Lack of irrigation facilities have been linked to suicides and agricultural distress by many independent studies and by the planning commission. Such massive increases in non- irrigation use of water resources in Vidarbha is bound to increase the development backlog of the region, the NGO said.

The water policy of the state government amended last year, prioritised water for irrigation over industrial needs.

However, for eight years from 2003 till 2011, it has been the other way round. The high powered committee for water allocations chaired by the Minister for Water Resources alone had diverted about 400 MCM of water to thermal power plants from the various reservoirs in Vidarbha during this period, the NGO added.

rahul.wadke@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 4, 2012)
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