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WIO demands status paper on coal-fired power plants in Odisha
Based on the 'Draft Climate Change Action Plan', it believes that the state is planning to generate about 58000 MW of power, mostly from coal-fired plants. For this, as a very rough and preliminary analysis by WIO finds out, the state has to make provision for 2297 million cubic meter of water per year at the minimum. This is enough to meet the domestic water requirement (calculated at the lowest of requirements) of close to 210 million people!

THE WATER Initiatives Odisha (WIO) urged upon the state government of Odisha to immediately release a ‘detailed status report’ on the existing and proposed coal-fired power plants including IPPs, CPPs and UMPPs detailing their current technology and generation status and the water used and polluted by them.

WIO is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.

In a open letter to the Chief Minister of Odisha on the Proposed Power Policy for the state, its convenor Ranjan Panda said that they have just learnt from media reports that the Government of Odisha is planning to formulate a comprehensive policy for coal-fired thermal power plants and captive power plants. He said WIO welcomes such a move as this is very timely.

The policy, as media reports, focuses more on state's share of free power from the plants. The real issue is however far more serious. Power plant's impact on water and environment should form the basis of a new power policy.

Panda said that they believe that the state's ecology will not be able to sustain the huge power the state government wants to generate. Especially because power plants use enormous amount of water, pollute sources and lead to air pollution. These impact the local communities and their livelihoods.

The Rivers and other water sources of the state are already stressed. Further, he said they don’t have any concrete information on the number of plants and the total generation capacity of the state.

According to WIO, various government data have different estimates. Based on the ‘Draft Climate Change Action Plan’, it believes that the state is planning to generate about 58, 000 MW of power, mostly from coal-fired plants. For this, as a very rough and preliminary analysis by WIO finds out, the state has to make provision for 2297 million cubic meter of water per year at the minimum. This is enough to meet the domestic water requirement (calculated at the lowest of requirements) of close to 210 million people! There are other grave environmental dangers of coal-fired power plants including the problem of fly ash disposal and radiation.

WIO also demanded that ecological concerns and not power sharing arrangements should be the prime factor that should govern this policy which must look into the carrying capacity of the ecology of the state and have a vision for power generation. There must be a restriction on the number of power plants and the amount of power generated, and a solid monitoring at place for punishing the polluters. In fact, it asked the Chief Minister to scrap all the new MoUs that have been signed for new power plants. Rather, demand all the required power from the existing IPPs and CPPs.

It also urged upon the Chief Minister to draw a limit of power consumption for industrial and urban establishments and establish an equitable and 'right' oriented power distribution system in the state which ensures equal right over the power generated to all the people of the state including the rural population and farmers.

It said that the government must chalk out a vision for power sector that takes into account the present and future of the state's demand and ecological concerns. It must not go for excessive generation of power simply because there is investment and coal available. This will spell disaster for the state.

Panda said that they have observed that important policy matters in the state are not being taken to the common people for proper and thorough discussion, the recent examples being "Draft Climate Change Action Plan" and "IWRM Plan of River Baitarani". The precedence must be broken now for making any policy people-oriented and beneficial for the state and its ecology. Therefore, he urged upon the state government to draft the thermal power plant policy and discuss it with the people of the state giving them ample time and scope for participation.

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