Coal power plants using sewage won’t resolve water conflict:
Greenpeace New Delhi, Jun 13 The use of sewage water to meet cooling needs of coal-based power plants will not resolve the conflict over water between thermal projects, farmers and urban communities, a Greenpeace India report said today.
In 2016, the government had made mandatory the utilisation of treated wastewater for coal power plants located within 50 km of a sewage treatment facility.
"Switching from fresh water to sewage will not reduce the impact of coal power plants on water scarcity in the country," the report, titled ‘Pipe Dreams’, said.
The report said that another solution is timely adoption of the water consumption target set for power plants by the environment ministry in its notification, dated December 7, 2015.
It recommended that all permits for new coal plants must be halted, as they are in any event not required at least till 2027, per the Central Electricity Authority’s draft National Electricity Plan.
The treated sewage policy was meant to tackle this problem, but GIS-based analysis shows that less than eight per cent (18 GW) of the country’s coal plants can actually utilise treated sewage water, about 87 per cent (200 GW) of the plants have no access to treated sewage water at all, making the efficacy of the policy questionable.
"Speedy adoption of the new water consumption targets will also help alleviate the crisis," said Jai Krishna, Greenpeace researcher and the author of the report.
The report also found that those power plants that are able to use treated sewage could see a 300-600 per cent increase in water costs, apart from hundreds of crores in capital investments for treatment facilities.
The resulting costs will be included in the tariff, increasing the burden on distribution companies and consumers, the report said.
Coal power plants require as much as 3.5 litres of water for each unit of power generated and the 230 GW of coal power plants included in this analysis would need about 19 billion litres of water each day for their operations.