New Delhi: On the backdrop of a surge in power demand due to severe heatwave across the country, Union Environment Ministry has recently relaxed environmental compliance rules for coal mines in order to ramp up production, a government notice stated. Last month, the Power Ministry announced that India’s peak power demand touched an all-time high of 207,111 MW as the nationwide reports of power outputs exacerbate a sweltering heatwave. Coal spot prices have witnessed a massive surge since the start of the year and the prevailing spells of heatwave have left India facing a 25-million-tonne shortfall.
A letter accessed by news agency AFP revealed that Environment Ministry has allowed a “special dispensation” to the Ministry of Coal to relax some norms including public consultations so that mines could operate at increased capacities.
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The government letter, dated May 7, also indicated that select coal mines will now be able to raise their production by 10 per cent without an impact assessment and rules on consulting local residents.
With the approval, government hopes to rope in private mining giants such as Vedanta and Adani in its efforts to ramp up coal production. Center aims to revive more than 100 dormant coal mines, previously deemed too expensive to operate, using new technology and fresh capital.
The report by AFP also stated that Coal Ministry had sought relaxation in environmental norms stating that “there is huge pressure on domestic coal supply in the country and all efforts are being made to meet the demand of coal for all sectors”.
Coal mining projects previously cleared to operate at 40-per cent capacity may now increase capacity to 50 percent without undertaking fresh environment impact studies, the news agency quoted an authority as saying.
India requires a billion tons of coal annually to meet its current domestic demand and most of its needs are met by domestic producers. The government had earlier said that it is planning to increase domestic coal production to 1.2 billion tons in the next two years to support a post-pandemic economic recovery.
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Meanwhile, Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi last week said that India’s coal needs are set to double by 2040.
Currently, coal accounts for country’s 70 per cent electricity generation and several reports indicate that coal mining plants have failed to keep pace with rising demands, triggering hours-long blackouts in several parts of the country.
Additionally, a lack of an adequate transportation system and railway carriages to supply coal to various parts of the country is further exacerbated the shortage. Several state governments have expressed concern over the possible shortage of coal in the power plants.
(With inputs from AFP)