India’s Food, Water, Energy Conundrum: Conclusions From a Two-Year Reporting Project, Part 1 of 2
By Michael Kugelman, Asia Program at the Wilson Center
25 March 2015
Circle of Blue
For two years, the Wilson Center and Circle of Blue have explored the contest for food, water, and energy in India and the troubling ways it plays out across the country.
We chronicled the Pyrrhic agricultural victories in the breadbasket state of Punjab, where farmers are provided free water and energy that yield huge grain surpluses. This subsidy, though, also drains groundwater reserves with over a million powerful electricity-devouring water pumps.
We described India’s coal paradox. India is a nation rich in supplies of indigenous coal but unable to develop them efficiently. One big challenge is finding sufficient water to keep coal-fired power plants humming. In the coal-belt region of Chhattisgarh, many farmers worry new plants will divert precious river water.
Meanwhile, as we chronicled in the short film Broken Landscape local communities in the coal-rich state of Meghalaya complain that rat-hole coal mining has befouled the environment. A recent government ban on the practice has pitted powerful mine owners and their wage laborers against locals faced with coal-infested rivers and wells. [Visit website to view the award-winning film.]See Circle of Blue's 2008 study, China, Tibet, and the Strategic Power of Water. to learn how China's water scarcity threatens India and other countries that depend on Tibet's rivers.
And we illustrated the climate-related threats to dams in India’s Himalayan states. We directly observed how a June 2013 flood wrecked new and existing hydropower projects in Uttarakhand, with major implications for India’s efforts to increase supplies of electricity, efforts meant in part to compensate for energy- and water-wasting agriculture in Punjab.