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Green energy is not necessarily green

The Statesman, New Delhi, 10th May, 2013

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) at a conference on 'Green Norms for Green Energy', organised today, brought together different stakeholders to discuss environmental impacts of these sectors and modes of monitoring and regulating them. It focused on the wind and small hydro sectors.
 The conference shattered a lot of myths about the renewable energy sector. The lesser-acknowledged environmental impacts of the sector, CSE says are environmental and social impact assessment for both small, hydro and wind power projects.
 “Green energy” is not necessarily green, and small hydro power is not really for small people with small needs, said Ms Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
 Speaking on the occasion, CSE deputy director general, Mr Chandra Bhushan, pointed out that renewable energy projects can be resource-intensive-1 megawatt (MW) of solar power needs 2.5-3 hectares (ha) of land. This raises concerns of land acquisition, impact on local ecology if the land area is large and in eco-sensitive areas, and issues of waste disposal. With the 23 per cent annual growth rate since March 2002, grid-connected renewable energy has substantial potential of affecting environment.
 Referring to the scale of small hydro power (SHP) sector, Ms Narain said: “On an average, Rs 150 crore is disbursed towards SHP subsidy and in 2012-13, 14 per cent of the Union ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) budget allocation went to SHP capital subsidy.”
 Ms Narain also highlighted the plight of the Ganga -- 70 hydropower projects with a capacity of 9,580.3 MW have “affected” 60-80 per cent of the river, without taking into consideration the river’s ecological flow (e-flow).