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Cookies are very small text files that are stored on your computer when you visit some websites. Megacities - National Geographic Channel - IndiaWe use first and third party cookies to improve our service, personalize your advertising and remember your website preference. A band of land stretching across northern India, at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, is one of the most heavily populated and intensely irrigated regions in the world. According to a new study by Perveen and her colleagues, Upmanu Lall and Naresh Devineni, some parts of India are using groundwater three times faster than ita€™s being replenished.
The team's new analysis draws on a 100-year record of daily rainfall in India, reflecting how much water has been available in various parts of the country as its residents endured both droughts and floods. By estimating water needs over dry spells and across decades, and comparing the estimate with actual rainfall, they found that many areas have been falling chronically short for many years. The findings, presented this month at an American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, fit with the results from gravity-sensing satellites that have detected the loss of groundwater across the heavily irrigated areas of northern Indiaa€”with the extraction of water at about 11 billion cubic yards (9 billion cubic meters) of water per year over the past decade. Local planners told the researchers they were aware there was a problem with water shortages and stress on the groundwater supply, she said, but they weren't aware of the depth of the problem, Perveen added.
The researchers found that some regions receive enough rainfall to supply their needs, as long as they build more reservoirs, ponds, and tanks to store water when supplies are plentiful. Much of the yearly rain comes during intense monsoon downpours, so storage is needed to help get through the long dry periods of the year. By analyzing the historical data, day by day, the researchers showed that water stress exists even where the average annual rainfall is apparently enough to cover the average water use. But the majority of the countrya€™s key food-growing areas would need far more water storage to be able to stop depleting the groundwater, Perveen said.
A more sustainable solution is to use small ponds, dams, and other ways of storing water locally, a new study suggests. By providing detailed information on small areas of the country, the analysis could help policy makers decide how much additional water storage they need to avoid depleting groundwater further, Perveen said.
In other parts of India, though, rainwater harvesting alone won't be enough to avoid depleting groundwater further, the study suggests. So the team is studying how farmers could shift the crops they grow to ones that require less water. To make a living from agriculture, farmers will have to shift away from water-intensive crops such as rice, sugarcane, and cotton. Youngsters in the east India village of Bokapahari scavenge for coal from one of the region's open mines, but the low-quality domestic fuel has proven unsuitable for modern coal plants. Along India's narrow coastal belt of Mundra in Gujarat State, 500 miles (805 kilometers) northwest of Mumbai, several coal-fired power plants generate electricity so cheaply that authorities for the most part have overlooked damage to fishing and grazing, and harm to the vulnerable mangrove ecosystem. It is here that Tata, India's giant conglomerate and largest private electric utility, has been building what it hopes will be one of the largest coal power plants in the world, the 4,000-megawatt Tata Mundra. But the Tata Mundra project has brought to light a new reality that will surely shape India's energy future. Although India has seemingly abundant coal reserves, the low-quality, high-ash fuel causes problems when it's used in state-of-the-art power plants.

Coal suitable for fueling these new plants is turning out to be scarce and expensive, leaving many in India to ask if it has any selling point left at all. Coal provides roughly 70 percent of India's electricity, and the government's most recent plan called for coal to provide for 75 percent of newly installed capacity. India, which has a population of 1.2 billion, the second largest in the world, has an electricity-supply shortfall of about 15 percent during peak demand hours.
Critics often argue that the bulk of the new power in India goes to the upper middle class and growing wealthy class in the form of big shopping malls and air-conditioned houses and offices. Reflecting India's coal frenzy in recent years, additional projects approved or in the pipeline would add capacity several times larger than projected demands through 2032, according to the Prayas Energy Group, an Indian think tank that focuses on the issues of the poor. In a report released in late June, the Sierra Club said runaway plant construction costs and rising global coal prices have made the plants financially risky investments. While it's not surprising that environmental activists would disparage coal, the Indian government itself increasingly is recognizing the problem it faces. The Association of Power Producers, which represents more than 20 private power companies in India, recently estimated that more than 50 power projects accounting for 68,000 megawatts of capacity were at the risk of financial default.
This month, Standard & Poor's lowered its outlook on Tata Power from stable to negative because of a loan-covenant breach on its Mundra project, which is only partly completed.
The government's short-term response to the industry's financial woes has been to direct state-owned Coal India to guarantee coal supplies to power producers at lower prices. Coal India, which is responsible for about 80 percent of the country's coal production, has been criticized for insufficient production to meet demand, as well as for mismanaging the country's resources.
The Asian Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation combined a few years ago to loan nearly $1 billion to help fund the Tata Mundra coal project. Solar power now is less expensive than burning diesel for the first time in India, according to a recent Bloomberg news report based on its New Energy Finance data. Daniel Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and adviser to National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge initiative, noted that Germany recently hit a milestone: Fifty percent of its total electricity comes from solar. Renewable energy plays a minor role in India's energy portfolio, but the country has been credited with making strong strides in solar, small hydroelectric plants, and wind farms.
Public resistance to coal also is on the upswing, as negative impacts from mining and electricity generation are becoming clearer over time.
A protest against a coal plant project two years ago in Sompeta in the eastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh turned violent, with two farmers killed by police and several others wounded. Neither the IFC's compliance office nor its South Asia office responded to a query for comment, but the IFC has visited the area to assess the complaint, according to watchdogs. Dutta of the India People's Science Campaign, who was the primary author of the panel's report, said it's time for India to reconsider its energy strategy. You can remove any cookies already stored on your computer, but these may prevent you from using parts of our website.
Megacities focuses on the single aspect of a city's infrastructure which best informs the life and functions of that place.
Or they will have to drastically change their ways of growing these crops to make farming more water-efficient, Perveen said. To spread electricity to millions, India must rely on high-priced imports, or seek alternatives to coal.

Instead, companies like Tata are looking overseas for coal, and import prices have been rising steadily. It also is losing its luster as certain renewables, such as wind and solar, become more cost-competitive.
Most projections were that the fast-growing nation would rely heavily on the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel in the future, because its reserves were so large.
India also has a high rate of electricity loss due to theft and inefficient transmission and distribution. Australia and Indonesia control roughly 50 percent of steam coal exports, according to the report. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year established a multiministerial committee to tackle the severe financial challenges facing the coal sector.
Some power companies, such as Adani Power, have tried to cancel long-term wholesale agreements to supply power to state utilities because of high coal prices.
Coal prices already have tripled from Tata's initial projections in 2006, according to the Sierra Club report.
It noted that the potential of solar power had caused billionaire Sunil Mittal to invest heavily in that market.
He and others suggest India could work toward a similar goal, using a combination of solar and wind energy. An independent panel headed by a retired justice in India made similar allegations in a recent report, claiming Tata's environmental and social-impact assessments were deficient and the project had damaged the environment and fishing industry.
Tata didn't respond to a reporter's inquiry, but in Indian press reports it has said that it has abided by all regulations, and has been working to help the community and to preserve the mangroves. But the region still has a limited supply of it in underground aquifers, according to water resources expert Shama Perveen of Columbia University.
Tata's chief executive officer says Tata Mundra won't be financially viable unless it gets a hefty rate increase to offset the soaring prices of imported Indonesian coal. The country's 2003 electricity act mandates power for all, but the United Nations estimates 400 million of India's citizens are still without access to an electric grid.
Wealthy countries also have faced challenges weaning themselves off of coal, although the United States has significantly cut coal's share of the nation's electricity mix in the past year due to a newfound abundance of cheaper natural gas. Cancellations would exacerbate power shortages, while reworked agreements could result in much higher utility rates for consumers and industries.
In order to survive, these infrastructures must each function independently, and yet blend into a harmony of man, machine, strategy and system, which defines it as a mega city. Megacities examines the infrastructure of eight iconic locations around the world: Las Vegas, Mexico City, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Sao Paulo, Mumbai and New York.

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