Despite the drought in Maharashtra, the state government diverted water to thermal power plants in scarcity regions, said Greenpeace on Thursday. Releasing data on water diversions from dams, Jai Krishna, Greenpeace campaigner, said that an analysis of water consumption by coal fired thermal power plants during the worst drought in 40 years, has exposed instances of wrong prioritisation. Four state owned power plants Bhusawal in Jalgaon district, Parli in Beed district, Paras in Akola and one in Nasik with an installed capacity of 3,680 MW are in drought affected districts. While the Parli power plant has been shut from February 15 this year, the state government had earlier approved a provision of 5,000 million litres of water from the Mudgal barrage in Parbhani which had reported zero storage in December 2012. The Bhusawal and Paras thermal plants used 10,350 million litres from January to March 2013.

This water was supplied to the Parli power plant after a proposal in December, said Mr Krishna. Two reservoirs in the region Jayakwadi and Majalgaon were nearing dead storage levels . While Bhusawal plant gets water from Hatnur dam, Paras is supplied from private barrages on the Mun River. Eight talukas in Jalgaon suffer acute water scarcity and even Jalgaon city has no water as two dams are completely dry, Greenpeace said.

The state government said in a government resolution of January this year that water from big, small and medium projects should be reserved only for drinking water, keeping the acute scarcity in mind.

However, the government has proposed power plants with a capacity of 13,120 MW in these drought areas and water for the projects has been granted by the high powered committee of the state. In Vidarbha too power plants with a capacity of 55,000 MW has been proposed. Greenpeace listed eight plants with a total capacity of 9,440 in various water scarce districts of the state which have been given water supply approval from dams. Mr Krishna said that to generate one MW of coal based power, 4,000 to 5,000 litres of water is needed per hour.

Greenpeace called for a cumulative water impact assessment in the river basins of the state and halt diversion of water in the meanwhile and an energy policy which is less water intensive. However a spokesperson for Mahagenco, the state’s power producing utility clarified that water for drinking was first priority, and all seven of its power plants had their own recycling plants and did not waste water. In Parli, the situation was such that they could be no more water supply from other sources. He said power was essential too in the state and the utility could not shut down plants across the board.