After the Konkan, Vidarbha has decided it doesn’t want any more mega power projects, citing environmental and public health concerns and the region’s acute water scarcity.
The region’s industrialists, environmentalists and academics have formed the Vidarbha Environment Action Group, and plan to take the issue to the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court through a public interest litigation early next month.
This is expected to delay several large government and private projects that have been planned, to make the power-starved state power-sufficient in three to four years.
In Vidarbha alone, power plants with around 4,000 MW of generation capacity are planned. Some are under construction, the rest are in the pipeline.
Most of Maharashtra’s current and proposed power projects are in the Konkan and Vidarbha regions.
The Konkan is a preferred destination due to its coastline, which can hold jetties where imported fuel can be offloaded. Eastern Vidarbha has coalfields, which are critical for thermal power plants.
The Konkan’s resistance to power plants is at a more advanced stage, with locals already fighting pitched legal battles against the state. Vidarbha’s action group met here on Sunday to formulate a strategy.
“We’re not against power projects — we just want the planners to set up smaller projects in different regions of the state to avoid large-scale pollution. Vidarbha already has generation capacity of 4,500 MW, as against this region’s daily demand of 1,200 MW-1,500 MW,” said Vidarbha Industries Association’s energy cell chief, R.B. Goenka.
Goenka said since Vidarbha’s coal reserves are now insufficient for existing plants, power companies have begun importing fuel.
He also pointed to the region's water scarcity, given that there are no large dams there. Thermal power plants consume massive quantities of water on a daily basis.
“We will suggest in our PIL that the state plan smaller plants of 250 MW-300 MW in various regions, so that both distribution losses and environmental damage are limited,” said Goenka.
The PIL will also point out that the pollution created by these new thermal plants will deter information technology and service industries from investing in this economically struggling region.