Water and Coal

This theme involves studying the impacts of coal based electricity generation on water. Given the large magnitude of coal based generation in India and the massive proposed capacity additions, implications for water resources and competing uses of water are enormous.

The study looks not just at how much water is used for coal based power generation, but the larger impacts of the entire coal chain on water resources, starting with mining, washing, transport, burning to ash and other waste disposal. We have been looking at three broad impact categories – (a) Disruption of surface and ground water sources for e.g. by mining (b) Actual withdrawal and consumption of water by all these processes in the entire chain, and (c) Pollution and degradation of water resources.

The study looks at what these impacts mean for communities, for ecology, for the viability of the power plants themselves and ultimately for options in the power sector. It is also trying to understand who the gainers and losers are in this process of diversion and degradation of water resources. Last, but most important, we are looking at the decision-making, regulation and governance of this aspect of coal based power generation, particularly water allocation and environmental governance. The aim is to identify any lacunae in the regulation and governance, and suggest ways in which the processes can be strengthened.

This study is the first step of a larger envisaged study on the connections between India’s aspired growth rates (and nature of growth) and water resources. This study aims to explore questions like how much water will this growth need, where and for what will this water be needed, who will gain and who will lose water, whether there will be enough to drive growth for next 25-30 years, and if not, what are the implications for equity, do we need to re-look at the very nature of this growth and so on.

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