Queensland coal a life-changer for India’s poor


IN A small, poverty-stricken village on the outskirts of Mumbai the simple connection of a light bulb is having a life-changing effect on locals.

Nestled off Mumbai's major arterial road and bordering on national park is the tiny Aarey Milk colony, where it's 500 residents are enjoying a new life with mains power.

The Courier-Mail toured the Aarey Milk colony yesterday, where Queensland coal will help keep the lights on in the small campus.

For generations families have lived in tightly-packed concrete and clay homes within the village.

Tubs of water are collected from a well at the bottom of the slope and carried up to the dusty and dark homes.

Mumbai shopkeeper Shevamta Prakesh Umbarsade in her family home. Picture: Cameron Laird
Mumbai shopkeeper Shevamta Prakesh Umbarsade in her family home. Picture: Cameron Laird

Until June this year residents' energy consumption was dependent on the amount of sun hitting a single solar panel outside each home until.

Reliable power came when power-giant Adani switched on 67 connections at a ceremony in the village under its Power For All initiative.

Mother of two Shevamta Prakesh Umbarsade runs the town's sweet shop from her front window.

Far from Australia's polarising climate change debate, the young mother said reliable electricity had made her and her two teenage children "very happy".

"My children can study at night with the light," she said through a translator.

Now Mrs Umbarsade's 19-year-old son, sitting tenth grade, can keep his head in the books when the sun goes down.

She has purchased a fridge and a television and pays a monthly electricity bill of about 450 rupees ($9).

The 36-year-old mother's ability to access electricity through a 240 volt powerboard is a long way from burning kerosene and candles to cook.

Conditions like this are repeated across the 3 million square kilometre country, where access to stable and reliable electricity is one of its greatest challenges.

It is estimated 300 million people are without access to the national grid.

As the energy-hungry nation develops into a global superpower, its need for coal will double by 2040.

To feed the need, ships loaded with 10 million tonnes of coal from Queensland's Carmichael mine arrive at India's ports from 2021.

Currently Australia supplies about 4 per cent of India's coal needs, with the rest coming from Indonesia and South Africa.

Adani Ports CEO Karan Adani. Picture: Cameron Laird
Adani Ports CEO Karan Adani. Picture: Cameron Laird

This week Adani Ports CEO Karan Adani declared he was focused on providing "upliftment" to Indian's lives by increasing supply of election using the cheapest and fastest form, coal.

Mr Adani, the son of company founder Gautam, said only once millions more people had access to stable electricity should the focus turn to widespread energy diversification in the network.

On India's northwest coast its 4620mw coal-fired power station sits just metres away from the company's solar panel manufacturing plant.

Adani produces about 11,000 panels each day from the plant.

While the company is synonymous with mining, it is one of the world's largest renewable energy providers, generating 2500mw of power with another 2340mw under construction.

Despite the investment in renewable energy coal is predicted to be India's dominant energy source through 2030 and beyond.

The writer is in India as a guest of the Confederation of Indian Industry.