The fact that environmental clearances to projects have been leading to shortfall in domestic coal production is no surprise. But that around 229 proposals are awaiting environmental clearance was made official by minister of state for coal Pratik Prakashbapu Patil in response to a Parliamentary question.
Patil said that delays in environmental and forestry clearances have “adversely affected” coal production in the country.
Coal production during 2011-12 stood at 436 million tonnes against the targetted 520 million tonnes due to delays in environment and forest clearances.
India’s largest coal producer Coal India Ltd (CIL) has been the biggest sufferer of the tussle between the ministries of coal and environment. Of the total 229 proposals that are stuck, around 178 are of Coal India.
Of late, the ministry of coal has been accused of not being able to increase coal production and to meet the demand for coal that has grown steadily by about 7% every year. In comparison, coal production has risen by only 4.6% over the last five years.
Around 70% of power produced in India comes from coal-based thermal power plants.
According to the industry estimates, there is an annual shortfall of around 70 million tonnes of coal that need to be met with imports, which is much costlier than the domestic coal.
Power producers have often said that the need for imported coal comes because coal production is not increasing in the country.
“We are ready to import coal but as it comes at a higher price, no state wants to buy costlier power generated on imported coal. No power producer will suffer losses to generate this costlier power,” said a leading private power producer.