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, a 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 plant has been shut from February 15 this year, the government had approved in December 2012 a provision of 5,000 million litres of water from the Mudgal barrage in Parbhani, which had reported zero storage in December 2012, said Mr. Krishna.

The Bhusawal and Paras thermal plants used 10,350 million litres from January to March 2013.

Two reservoirs in the region, Jayakwadi and Majalgaon, were nearing dead storage levels. While the Bhusawal plant gets water from Hatnur dam, Paras is supplied water 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.

In view of acute scarcity of water, the government resolved in January that water from big, small and medium projects would only be used for drinking purposes.

However, the government proposed power plants with a capacity of 13,120 MW in these drought-affected areas and water for them was granted by a high-powered committee. In Vidarbha too, power plants with a capacity of 55,000 MW have been proposed. Greenpeace listed eight plants with a total capacity of 9,440 MW in water-scarce districts. Water supply from dams had been approved for these plants.

Mr. Krishna said that to generate one MW of coal-based power, 4,000 to 5,000 litres of water are needed per hour.

Greenpeace has called for a cumulative water impact assessment in the river basins, halt to diversion of water, and an energy policy which is less water-intensive.

“No wastage”

However, a spokesperson for Mahagenco, the State’s power-producing utility, clarified that water for drinking was the first priority, and all seven of its power plants had their own recycling plants and did not waste water.

In Parli, the situation is such that there cannot be any more water supply from other sources.

He also said power too was essential in the State and the utility could not shut down plants across the board.