Cheyyur Project Will Harm Local Hydrology: Study

Study report can be downloaded from HERE.

The Cheyyur power project will damage water reserves, harm agriculture and interfere with local drainage routes leading to increased flooding in some areas and reduced rain water flow to vital irrigation tanks, according to a study titled “Hydrological Implications of the 4000 MW coal-fired Ultra Mega Power Project in Cheyyur, Tamil Nadu.” The report finds that the water bodies and water flows in the Cheyyur area render it unsuitable for hosting a large coal-fired power plant.

“Site selection for the power plant has completely ignored the project’s impacts on Cheyyur’s rich surface water resources such as eris (tanks) and ponds and the interconnected network of streams,” said Prof. S. Janakarajan, one of the authors of the study. Janakarajan works extensively on water management, and is currently mapping the water bodies of Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts, Tamil Nadu, as a part of the project funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Cheyyur Project

“Thermal power plants are water abusers. Krishnapatnam, in Nellore district, which was as water rich as Cheyyur is now starving for water,” said Shripad Dharmadhikari, an IIT-Bombay graduate who is currently researching the water-related impacts of coastal power plants in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. His organisation Manthan Adhyayan Kendra conducts research on water and energy. “Unfortunately, with coal-fired plants, Tamil Nadu will have to make a choice between water and electricity. Particularly in places like Cheyyur, you can’t have both,” he said.

“Not locating the project here keeps open the option of developing this area for its agriculture and hydrological potential. The network of irrigation tanks need to be maintained, not abandoned or diverted for other uses, if Tamil Nadu is interested in some long-term water security for its fast urbanising population,” the report concluded.

The study, which included computer modelling of rain water flows, found that the site for dumping toxic flyash is located upgradient of at least seven irrigation tanks with a command area of more than 5000 acres. Noting that the flyash will be mixed with seawater and transported to the ash dump in a slurry form, the report warns of salinisation of groundwater and surface water flows down-gradient of the ash pond.

Relying on RTI records from the Revenue Department, the report pointed out that the plant and ash pond sites enclose more than 150 acres of water bodies, including backwaters, streams and ponds.

The project proponents have failed to study the impacts of key components of the project – such as a proposed 4 km road to East Coast Road, a coal conveyor corridor, a storm water drain and a 25-km railway line – on local drainage and flooding, the study reports.

The study was conducted by Community Environmental Monitoring, a project of The Other Media, Prof. S. Janakarajan, Siddharth Hande and Nityanand Jayaraman.

For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman – 9444082401

Community Environmental Monitoring

92, Thiruvalluvar Nagar 3rd Cross, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090


  1. China has made great progress in all fields because whatever the Govt decides there is no opposition. India is having too much of democracy and opposition to each and every projects by NGOs and activists make it difficult to complete the project in time.
    How many of us are willing to reduce our electricity consumption by discarding, Air conditioners, Microwave ovens, washing machines and refrigerators.
    We want 24 hour electricity but oppose setting up of Power Houses also.
    This is a real hypocrisy.

  2. The nuclear plants were opposed because of the possible catastrophic destruction they cause in the event of an accident; hydro-electric projects as they destroyed forests and their scope limited; gas was scarce and expensive and therefore the quantity available was used for prior needs like, fertiliser production and for substituting auto fuel with a view to reduce import of crude oil; the renewable like wind or solar power was far too capital intensive; further they were unreliable as they could not meet the demand for power when it was required most, during the peak hours between 6-10 PM; therefore they have to be backed up by conventional power thereby having to duplicate investment. That leaves the cheapest best option to coal for which there was abundant supply in the country. Though it has a long term effect on the climate, India could ignore coal only at a heavy price on its development. USA consumes nearly twice the quantity of coal than India and China six times – 3900 million tonnes p. a, yet increasing by the year. Therefore while the environmental concerns were important, one needs to think of mitigating them instead of abandoning the project.