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Making the water-guzzling thermal plants accountable

Making the water-guzzling thermal plants accountable This article is related to General Studies- Paper-3 (Environment & Ecology) The Hindu

"An improved monitoring mechanism can play a key role."

The advancing monsoon has brought relief to many parts of India, but its progress has been slower than average and the country is still in the midst of a rainfall deficit, with millions facing an acute water shortage. Water is essential for human survival, and for agriculture and industry. It is important that India — which has only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources but about 18% of the world’s population — consumes water more sensibly.

In India’s pursuit of 100% electrification goal, the country’s installed power capacity will need to be doubled. Even with the growth of renewable energy (RE), coal has been projected to be the backbone of the electricity sector till 2030 and beyond. Managing the electricity needs of a country that’s already dealing with water scarcity will be a chal-lenge.

Located in water-scarce areas

Thermal power plants (TPPs) consume significant amounts of water during the electricity generation process. Most of India’s TPPs are located in water-stressed areas, and water shortages have led to electricity-generation disrup-tions and significant revenue losses to the economy.

In December 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a notification setting lim-its for water consumption by TPPs. However, the amended Environment Protection (EP) Rules codified in June 2018 ended up permitting TPPs to use more water than what was initially specified. There are certain mechanisms that need to be strengthened to make these regulations more effective.

The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) recently released the format for TPPs to report on their annual water consumption. The power plants were asked to specify both metered and un-metered usage, report on the source (like river, canal or sea), and state the percentage of deviation from the water norms, along with the reasons and the correc-tive measures undertaken.

These guidelines can be strengthened by including other relevant inputs. First, TPPs should disclose the amount of water consumed by them in previous years, so that a baseline for water consumption per TPP can be established, and subsequent reductions in water consumption can be quantified. Second, these reporting requirements — currently in the form of an Excel sheet on the CEA website — must be added to the EP Rules, to accord the disclosure process greater transparency and enforceability. Third, TPPs should also be required to submit verifiable evidence (for example, water bills) to support and substantiate the disclosures. Without these, the self-reporting guidelines will remain weak.

Finally, the data supplied by TPPs should be placed in the public domain, so that the parameters disclosed can be studied in the context of region-specific water shortages, outages in the plants, and future research and analysis in this field.

Specifying penalties

Section 15 of the EP Act provides for a blanket penalty for contravention of any provisions of the Environment Protection Act or EP Rules: up to five years of imprisonment and/or up to Rs. 1 lakh fine along with additional daily fines for continuing offences. However, the Act does not stipulate specific penalties for specific offences. Perhaps this is an area for review by the government, so that we have a more nuanced framework for enforcement and penalties.

Further, the relevant officials in charge of enforcement, across the Ministry and the CEA, should be identified, and their roles clearly defined. The implementation of these norms should include milestones and time-based targets, and periodic monitoring of the progress of TPPs in making improvements.

In addition to reducing the stress caused by TPPs, shifting to a more aggressive RE pathway will help India achieve its global climate targets. However, this will need further work — particularly to regulate water consumption by specific RE technologies. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has taken a first step by issuing a notice to State governments on reducing water use for cleaning solar panels and to explore alternative mechanisms to ensure that solar panels remain efficient.

India will need to balance the needs of its growing economy with its heightening water stress. Stringent imple-mentation of standards for judicious water use by TPPs, combined with the promotion of RE and energy efficiency, will offer pathways for achieving these goals.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan

What is it?
  • Recently, Union Water Power Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat launched a water conservation campaign.
  • Under this, 1592 more affected areas of 256 districts of the country will be emphasized.
  • From 1 July 2019 to 15 September, 2019, the rst phase will be run, from 1 October 2019 to 30 November 2019, an additional phase 2 will be run.
  • The target of the campaign will be on water-stressed districts and blocks.
An Objective
  • The main objective of this campaign is to create awareness about the bene ts of water conservation and to reduce water resources and to provide tap water in every household in India.
  • new water power campaign is a step towards achieving that goal in the near future. For this initiative, the Central Government o cials will work together in district of 256 districts with a loss of 1592 water to the district administration.
  • These officers will be assigned the task of ensuring ve water conservation points set by the Ministry of Water Resources.
  • Under this scheme, the dra of water conservation scheme at block and district level will be prepared.
  • A fair will be organized by the Kisan Vigyan Kendra to promote more e cient use of water for better crop alternatives and irrigation
Composite Water Management Index
  • In June last year, the Policy Commission had released the Composite Water Management Index report i.e.
  • report warns that India is facing the most serious water crisis in recent times and it can endangered millions of lives and the employment of millions of people along with it.
  • According to this report, almost 75 percent of households do not have drinking water available. 84 percent of rural households do not get water through pipes and 70 percent of the country's water is not suitable for drinking.
  • Nearly 60 million people of the country are facing severe shortage of water and two lakh people die every year due to lack of clean water.
  • Further, this problem is going to be severe and double the water supply will be required in the year 2030, compared to the current supply of water for the population.
  • Because of this, crores of people will face severe shortage of water and this can reduce the GDP by 6 percent.
  • In this Composite Water Management Index, 9 broad areas were included in 28 different indicators of various aspects of ground water, rehabilitation of water bodies, irrigation, farming, drinking water, policy and management. For the purpose of review, the states were divided into two special groups- 'Northeast and Himalayan kingdom' and 'Other States'.

Expected Question (Prelims Exam)

1.In the context of Composite Water Management Index, consider the following statements-

1. In this is report released by NITI Aayog.

2. According to this report, 75% houses do not have facilities of drinking water.

3. Under this report, states have been divided into two groups-'Eastern and Himalayan' state and 'Others'.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  • Only 1
  • Only 2
  • Only 3
  • All of the above

Expected Question (Mains Exam)

1. India needs to balance the demand of its increasing economy along with its increasing water crisis. For it, wise use of thermal plants is necessary with promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. Discuss. (250 words)