New Delhi, Aug. 29: An inter-ministerial meeting on infrastructure constraints ended up discussing the coal ministrys accusations against the environment ministry of going slow in clearing mining projects that meet green norms.
At the end of the meeting, the exasperated chairman of the group, a secretary from the cabinet secretariat, suggested the environment ministry should henceforth attend the meetings on infrastructure. The ministry should be present in the next meet and listen to the complaints first-hand.
Since these projects relate to three states — Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — the participants decided that their chief secretaries should join through a video link.
The environment ministry had earlier this year divided forest areas into go and no go areas, according to forest cover.
At the meeting, the coal ministry said the environment ministry was dithering on clearances to mining projects in go areas.
While efforts are on to try to get more areas in the go category, some ministries are worried about the delays in the go region projects.
Top officials in the ministries of coal, steel and power said that environment ministry had kept on hold most of their projects, including routine renewals of mining licences.
There are inordinate delays in getting routine forest and environment clearances. We understand the need for green cover, but someone should also understand that we are headed for huge power blackouts if we continue to sit over clearances for these projects, power ministry officials said.
A document prepared by the Central Electricity Authority on the coal scenario by 2016-2017 says the shortfall in supply can be as much as 40 per cent: the demand is forecast at 1,017 million tonnes (mt), and supply 641mt.
The CEA note says, It may be mentioned that in case category A coal blocks are not allowed to be developed because of forest clearance problems, the coal availability will be reduced by 110 million tonnes per year.
Besides, the agency sees a gap in hydro-electric generation, which will increase the pressure on coal-fired projects.
Studies show that the likely generation demand that is to be met by coal-based plants during the year 2016-17 would be 1,095 billion units. Further, we estimate that generation available from hydro stations would be 30 per cent less than their design, the total generation to be met by coal based plants comes to 1,155 billion units, it said.
Officials said more than 1,800 projects were pending clearances from the ministry of environment. India has known coal resources of over 2.64 lakh million tonnes, of which proven reserves are around 1 lakh million tonnes.
Delays in starting coal mining projects could also see a sharp rise in imports. India is already importing about 70mt of coal annually, and this can shoot up to nearly 500mt by 2016-2017.
Power projects with coal linkages (captive coal mining blocks) in Go areas but which are waiting for various clearances can add up to 25,000 megawatts (MW) of power.
Projects with mines in No Go areas can add up to over 9,000MW, including the Chhattisgarh mega power project and NTPCs Lara and Darlipalli projects.