In India, pollution and the effects of climate change are making headlines. An answer to the problems is promised by large-scale solar power plants such as the 648 MW Kamuthi Solar Power Project (KSPP), one of the biggest projects in India, which has been viewed as the “start of an unprecedented Indian solar boom” . In order to achieve the Paris pledge, India will need several hundreds of PV mega solar power plants . India had already launched in 2010 its National Solar Mission under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a target of 20GW by 2022. However, the industry increased faster than expected, and the target was later increased to 100 GW (by 2022) by the Narendra Modi government in the 2015 Union budget of India .
The KSPP project is located in the state of Tamil Nadu in the southwest of India, 90 km from Madurai and spreads over an area of 2,500 acres (1,012 hectares) in the district of Ramanathapuram [1,2]. The plant has peak electricity generating capacity of 648 megawatts (MW) by using photovoltaic (PV) technology. The project construction took eight months in total and was completed in June 2016 by the power producer Adani Group . The entire planning, designing, and building process involved project costs of US 670 million and lasted 18 months, which some argue to be just a quarter of the time required to construct a fossil-fuel power plant of similar size .
In 2017, an article in The New Indian Express stated that local residents are claiming the KSPP to be a “water guzzler” . According to the article, approximately 2 lakh (200,000 liters) of water are required to wash the 25 lakh (2,500,000) solar modules on a daily basis. Villagers are asserting that the water comes from borewells five kilometers away, “without permissions from the district authorities” .
In order to transport the water, it is said that approximately 40 tractors have been contracted by Adani Green Energy. These tractors will extract on a daily basis about 6,000 to 8,000 liter tanks close to the Gundar riverbed on the Kamuthi-Mudukalutar road. If the solar panels are not kept clean, the production would drop by 25 percent .
The KSPP plant’s head S.K. Sharma told the New Indian Express that the company Adani Group had outsourced the cleaning work to other contractors. Consequently, it is up to these contractors to manage the source of water . Further, a revenue official confirmed that no one has the right to sell groundwater, but that it is happening in the case of the cleaning contractors . The leader Seeman of the Tamil-nationalist party NTK (Naam Tamilar Katchi)  accused the state’s government of providing full support to the Adani Group, the right to acquire land and set up an exclusive substation by the company TANTRASCO (Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation Limited). According to Seeman, the company TANTRASCO started to exploit the water resource .
Further, a news platform published that women in the state Ramanathapuram gathered outside the KSPP plant in 2018, in order to express their protest against the Adani Group, which failed to honor the pledge to provide jobs in exchange for the land given by the women for constructing the KSPP . Moreover, the Tamil-located TV-channel SunNews published a video on their YouTube-page in February 2018, showing local people protesting against the Adani Group . The video’s protest can be summarized as follows: ”Adani team had promised a deal to give employment to the people for selling their farming lands for cheaper prices and now they have not lived up to their promises. They are also taking away their drinking water from Kottamedu river. People are protesting to demand their rightful jobs and also asking them to stop taking away the water from Kottamedu.” (unofficial translation).
The KSPP project was completed and started electricity production in 2016 before the protest started in 2017. The reaction by the plant’s security head S.K. Sharma was that the utilization of groundwater was specifically put into the contract with the cleaning contractor. The leading ranks of the Adani Group did not further comment on the issue .(See less)