Powering India: Feeding an insatiable need

Like most countries, India's electricity is distributed to its population via a large, centralised grid system. Through the construction of thermal power plants and large hydroelectric dams, the Government has added 150MW of installed generating capacity to this grid in the 62 years since Independence, yet such priority is given to feeding the insatiable demands of the cities that 78 million people in India are still living without an electricity connection.

Yet a connection to the electricity grid far from assures a dependable supply of power for those living in rural areas. A recent report by Greenpeace India, Still Waiting, surveyed a tier A city, a tier B city and three villages in five states across India, and found that, while the cities received between 22 and 24 hours of electricity supply per day, all the villages surveyed had a power supply of less than 12 hours a day on average. In the villages, electricity is used for pumping drinking water, irrigating crops and keeping wild animals at bay, in addition to lighting and for small industry.

To compound their problems, the rural population are often the ones who must suffer the local environmental and health impacts of centralised power plants, such as the choking grey ash produced by burning coal, or the inhospitable and marshy land created by impounding large water bodies.

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