Nagpur | 25-26 November 2017
A two-day regional capacity building workshop from 25th to 26th November 2017 was organized in collaboration by PAIRVI, Centre for Financial Accountability, Vidarbh Van Adhikar Sangahthan Nagpur, Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti and Kashtkari Jan Aandolan. The workshop took place at Mure Memorial Hospital, Die Arch Sabhagrah, Nagpur where participants came from Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Gosikhurd, Nagpur etc. Key Persons were Soumya Dutta, Rajesh Kumar, Nishant Mate, Praveen Mote, Vilas Bhogade, Renuka Sirpurkar, Rohit Jain and Sudhir Paliwal.
Sudhir Paliwal remarked that Chandrapur, due to fly ash generation from various thermal power plants has similar air pollution problems as of Delhi. In Maharashtra, 4500 crore rupees are spent annually on ash disposal. Fly ash has radioactive elements but Indian government does not have any regulations in practice to limit its dumping near water bodies.
Soumya Dutta, BCPH, highlighted that electricity is not our primary energy source and around 300 million people of our country are still without electricity. The reason that it is talked about most is due to its large scale use in urban parts of India. 55-60% resistance going on against energy in our country accounts for that against electricity projects. He talked about power purchase agreement (PPA), with example of Tata Mundra power plant, under which the State Electricity Distribution Boards of five states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana) are bound to purchase electricity even if the state is electricity surplus. The PPA also includes terms and conditions for increasing tariffs after a certain period of time. These states are mostly electricity surplus still they purchase costly electricity from distribution companies because they are bound with the PPAs.
He mentioned CEA’s report according to which India generated surplus electricity for the third consecutive year and will remain surplus till 2022-2023. Still 92000 MW generation capacity is in pipeline. Increasing installed capacity can’t ensure electricity access to all. Singrauli stands out as an example where 105 villages do not have electricity despite being an energy hub. India does not need new thermal power plants. India has nowhere committed to reduce coal consumption as main source of energy. Solar is not increasing at a desirable rate and the plan of 175 GW of renewable energy seems unviable.
Environmental Impact Assessment was discussed with the help of basic instruments like pH meter, TDS meter, decibel meter etc. By understanding terms of EIA and using such basic instruments locals/residents of large energy projects can be more cautious during EIA, conducted by a private consultant and play an important role. They can also carry out public EIA.
Nishant Mate pointed out that a few households with only 2-3 lights get electricity bill of Rs 400 or above. Fly ash is a major problem for locals and those involved in agriculture. Fly ash deposits on their agricultural lands and crops thus destroying cash crops like cotton. Dams made for irrigation purpose often divert water to power plants instead of agricultural lands. Thermal power plants in the vicinity of Kanhan River have caused water pollution and a few people face asthma problem.
Rajesh Kumar from CFA informed the participants why it is important to question the finance in power sector and also discussed about Non Performing Assets of public banks in India. Around 14 lakh crore rupees stand out to be stressed loans. SBI (State Bank of India) accounts for 12% of total investment in power finance. Banks restructure loans for corporations but not for farmers. Power companies finance their projects through equity also which can be through various banks or other companies. Physical assets of a power plant (like boiler) are often a part of tangible finance by foreign banks. Other than providing loans in terms of money, foreign banks often provide large machineries used in such projects. Invoice of coal import is altered and increased by the coal purchasing power companies to finally increase the tariff of the electricity produced by them.
It is common to see in foreign countries that masses protest against banks which provide loans to power companies but such protests are uncommon in India. Finance is the backbone of every project. Power finance can be tracked through media, annual reports of power companies, RTI and sometimes through SEBI.
Praveen Mote raised the issue that project proponents never informs about the count of population which is to be affected during public hearing for forest clearance. Residents are themselves making a list of biodiversity affected by such projects, an important aspect, because project proponent’s documents do not include such measure. Praveen highlighted it is important to write to forest officials during forest clearance procedure but residents do not do that. If community forest rights are recognized in area where the forest dependants are to be displaced because of a project, the displaced population should make it clear whether they can enjoy the same rights in the forest area where they are resettled and the existing population of that area does not have CFRs. Other issue that residents should raise is of employment and the number of years of that employment by asking life cycle of a project. Not more than 50 of the displaced are able to get a job in any project.
Participants complained about how a biomass power plant uses coal and Karnataka Power Company Limited dumped the mine waste on site near residential area in Bhadravati.
One participant was of the opinion that advocacy is an important way of not just making people understand reasons of their problems but it also leads to action both by locals and administration. He suggested that through advocacy people living near thermal power plants can be made more active in demanding compensation. Participants were interested for a hands-on training on various basic instruments.
Technical support group formation is important in areas where projects are proposed, as pointed out by Praveen, a single and far located support group cannot reach out to various places at the same time or in short duration. Technical support group would be given a hands-on training to get acquainted with various easy to use instruments like pH meter, TDS meter, air quality monitor (for PM 2.5/10), anemometer(wind speed measuring meter), decibel meter(to check noise level) etc. A brief Environmental Impact Assessment report is available in local language but it is hardly read by those who are affected by the large projects. These are some of the basic environmental conditions which are affected by the all kind of projects. They would also be trained to track various clearances reports and finances of those projects.