Report by Odisha Diary bureau, Sambalpur: We have just come to know that the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has decided to shift its proposed 1600 MW coal-based thermal power plant from Gajmara in Dhenkanal district to another state.
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) welcomes this decision, said Ranjan Panda, Convenor of WIO, the leading water and environment watch dog of the state. The plant was about to draw water from the already dying River Mahanadi and people in the plant locality were opposing it because it would have killed fertile agriculture land and prosperous farmers, said Panda in a statement today.
According to data accessed by WIO, about 57 industries have been allocated 1295.167 cusec of water from Mahanadi currently. The Water Allocation Committee (WAC) of the water resources department is considering allocation of 1858. 514 cusec of water to 71 more industries. In fact, the river Mahanadi accounts for the highest amount of water allocation under consideration as well. Altogether Mahanadi now accounts for around 62 percent of the state's total industrial water allocation. A decade ago, it was around 13 percent. The lifeline of both Chhatisgarh and Odisha, the river is already under severe stress and is not able to provide the committed drinking water and irrigation during non-monsoon months. The shifting of NTPC’s plant is therefore most welcome, reiterated Panda. “This is time the Govt. of Odisha scarps all other thermal power plants and other such water guzzling industries such as POSCO, JR Power and the like which are going to use water from the severely stressed Mahanadi”, urged Panda.
In Gajmara, the plant would have eaten up water and livelihood of prosperous farmers whose vegetables are exported to near and far off cities like Dhenkanal, Angul, Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. It would have also destroyed the serene ecology of the Saptasajya hills. So, NTPC has taken the right step, said Panda.
NTPC should now follow suit in its Darlipali plant in Sundergarh district. The Darlipali Ultra Mega Power Plant would use water from the already stressed Hirakud Reservoir and will deprive lakhs of farmers from their share of irrigation water from the reservoir. Further, the plant would increase the pollution load and heat of the already critically polluted and hot zone of the state. Blind industrialization in the state has already taken a heavy toll on the farmers and irrigation water. Many farmers are committing suicide and millions are leaving farming for undignified occupations. Farmers have the first rights over water compared to industries and hence NTPC should go back from the Darlipali plant as well, urged Panda further.
In fact the Government of Odisha is planning coal fired power plants irrationally and blindly without considering the overall water and ecological footprints of such plants. It’s high time the state governments stops such blind push for coal fired power plants and go for green renewable energy sources, said Panda. NTPC itself has committed to take a lead in solar power generation in the country and is planning to support solar power generation in Rajasthan and Gujrat in big way. If NTPC wants to help Odisha in power generation, it should support the state in Solar Energy and not in fossil fuel based energy, urged Panda.