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Coal min’s shortfall pitch fails to impress MoEF

Environment ministry says it has already lifted moratorium from 5 out of 7 coalfields.

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi |
September 6, 2011 12:40:19 am

The environment ministry has told a Group of Ministers (GoM) that the coal ministry’s argument of a possible production shortfall of 39 million tonne is untenable as it has lifted the moratorium from five out of seven coalfields.

In a presentation prepared for the GoM — set up to suggest ways on streamlining green clearances for the coal mining sector — the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) said it has revoked the moratorium on mining imposed by it in five coalfields —Angul-Talcher,Ib Valley,Singrauli,Northern Coalfields,Mahanadi Coalfields. The ministry further said that it was actively examining the mitigation plans for the remaining two areas — Chandrapur and Korba.

“However,the coal ministry is yet to clarify as to how does it predict a 39 MT production shortfall due to moratorium on coal mining imposed under Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI)?” the ministry said in its presentation.

In 2009,the MoEF had introduced CEPI to categorise the environmental quality at given locations and conducted a nation-wide assessment of industrial clusters. Seven coalfields were brought under the purview of this moratorium. The high-level committee appointed by the GoM and which was headed by Planning Commission member B K Chaturvedi has,in its recent report,asked the environment ministry to lift the moratorium completely from the remaining two coalfields by September 30,2011.

In response to the Chaturvedi panel’s suggestion that the restrictions on expansion of coal mining projects under CEPI be expressly removed,the ministry expressed its readiness in “considering coal projects on priority as and when mitigation plans are formulated.”

On the issue of allowing existing coal projects to carry out 25 per cent expansion without public hearing,the MoEF has asked the coal ministry to furnish the list of such projects to it. However,the committee has in its report said that existing procedures should continue to apply for large and fresh expansions.

The MoEF has rejected the suggestion of the Chaturvedi panel that to ensure faster forest clearances,more powers be given to the states to help them process cases up o 100 hectares.

“The law does not provide for delegation of powers to the states in this connection. The existing law was formed after the realisation that states governments were subjected to local pulls and pressures and often did not deal within the larger national interest,” the MoEF told the GoM in its August 2 meeting.

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