The 1,000 MW Stage I of NTPC's Mauda Super Thermal Power Plant, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated on Thursday as part of the 2,320 MW Mauda power plant, is one of the 71 proposed projects in Vidarbha with a total capacity of 55,000 MW.
However, Greenpeace India says such clusters of thermal power plants in small, already water-parched regions may cause serious stress to farmers dependent on the dams. “Vidarbha has constantly been under severe agrarian distress, a prime reason for the high rate of farmers’ suicides here,” says a reactive issued by Greenpeace which adds, “A Maharashtra government resolution released on August 19, 2014, declares 123 blocks in the state waterscarce, with rainfall below 50%. Among them are Nagbhid, Mul, Gondpipri, Pompurna tehsils in Chandrapur district, which come within the command area of the Gosikhurd dam.”
Greenpeace points out that the newly inaugurated Mauda power plant will also primarily depend on Gosikhurd dam – demanding about 43 million cubic meter (MCM)
water each year. This is sufficient to irrigate about 8600 hectares. Ironically, the Gosikhurd dam which was conceived in 1980-81 is still pending completion. Only partially operational to date, this dam has seen a cost escalation from Rs 372 crores when its construction began in the 1980s to almost Rs 13,000 crore in 2012.
This project is funded by the Central Government’s Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, the objective of which is mainly irrigation.
In the face of this unprecedented delay in construction of the vital Gosikhurd dam, and despite the water scarcity already declared this year, the government has provided 100 MCM to the NTPC power plant and more than 160 MCM to three other thermal power plants which are under consideration. Together these
non-irrigational allocations alone constitute nearly 25% of the total capacity of the dam (1146 MCM).
Greenpeace has urged the government to review existing water allocations to thermal power plants in the state and conduct a cumulative assessment on water availability and irrigation losses in the state’s river basins, so that water conflicts between various users can be avoided and irrigation needs of farmers fulfilled.