The role of power generation for sustained economic growth of a country cannot be denied. India generates about 330,000 MW of power each year. Thermal Power project generates about 218,330 MW of power. This includes power generation through Coal, Gas and Diesel. Nuclear, Hydro and other renewable sources generate about 1, 11,670 MW of power. Power generated meet the growing demand for growing Household and Industrial use in the country and contribute to economic growth.
The point however is that power plants come with its own shortages. While it contributes to Economic growth, it also has disastrous consequences on Environment and People’s Livelihood. Coal based Thermal power projects particularly have disastrous consequences on environment. Coal based thermal power plants are considered to have environmental consequences in terms of land use, health hazards and pollution of air, soil and water. The communities which are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods do get affected by the same.
One of such areas includes the villages located near thermal power plant project located near Krishnapatnam Port. Sri Damodaran Sanjeeviah Thermal Power Station is located in Nellore district. The owner of the project is Andhra Pradesh Power Development Company Limited (APPDCL). While two phases of the project for generation of 1,600 Mega watt of power is completed, the third phase is to start.
The people living in villages located near the plant are already affected by the project. Land, Water and Soil have been polluted. As a result Agricultural production has come down. The agricultural produce from the farming lands in the village does not have a market value at present. Paddy which needs to go to the market has been stocked at homes with no buyers. Fishing communities find that the marine life has got affected due to release of effluents from the plant into the sea. Dairy activity has seen decline as milch animals has seen decline in health and increased mortality due to exposure to exposed grass. Sheep and Goat rearing cannot be practised as earlier due to poisonous effect of power plants on the grass in grazing lands.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study done earlier indicated that there would be less of pollution and hence only marginal impact on the local environment. This stands in contrast to the actual reality where people’s assets such as land, soil, livestock and health have got affected. The livelihoods of the people have been destroyed. In contrast to the claim that it would provide employment, only employment of hazardous nature as clearing ash waste has been generated.
It is necessary to think back on whether what benefits the economy really turns out to be beneficial to people who reside near such projects. While such projects take away clean air, land, water from people’s lives and their livelihoods in the name of economic growth, what happens to the affected communities in the long run?
Atul Nigam is a Social Scientist and works on environmental issues