Mumbai: Indiabulls Power Ltd was ordered to submit a plan to compensate for any shortage of water that may be caused by diversions from the Upper Wardha dam to its project.
A division bench of the Bombay high court directed the company to come up with the plan by 25 September, comprising options such as recycling of water and drip irrigation.
Indiabulls is developing a 1,350 megawatts (MW) power project at Nandgaonpeth in Amravati district in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region.
The Vidarbha Backlog Removal and Development Committee (VBRDC) claimed in its public interest litigation (PIL) that diversion of 87.6 million cu.m (mcm) to the Indiabulls power project will result in 23,219 ha of land belonging to more than 25,000 farmers not being irrigated.
The bench comprised chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Nitin Jamdar.
The PIL also said the project violated an undertaking by the state government that it use the money provided by the central government for the people of Vidarbha only for irrigation besides not diverting water for other purposes, such as the Indiabulls power project.
An Indiabulls spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs.3,750 crore package to provide relief to cotton farmers in Vidarbha, some of whom committed suicide because of debt. Under the package, Rs.2,177 crore was to boost irrigation and improve agricultural productivity.
“The power projects will have to come up in areas where there is domestic coal available or on the sea coast to keep the cost of the power (at) minimum,” said Maharashtra energy secretary Ajoy Mehta. “There is no other alternative.”
Earlier this month, a report by the lobby group, Greenpeace, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, said that as of December 2010, 71 thermal power plants with a collective capacity of nearly 55,000 MW were in various stages of approval in Vidarbha.
The state government has allocated 2,049 mcm of water per year to these projects which is sufficient to irrigate approximately 409,800 ha of land.
Shantanu Dixit of Pune-based think tank Prayas Energy Group, which carries out research on policy issues related to energy sector, said, “The thermal power projects of 1,85,000 MW are coming up in five or six clusters in the country either where coal and water is available or near the coast. And we have been arguing, the entire process of granting environmental clearance to projects is flawed. Instead of giving environmental clearance to a single project, the carrying capacity of each region should be examined and one should find out projects of how many MW this particular region can sustain before giving permission.”