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As ministries trade barbs, consumer goes powerless

A blame game has begun within key economic ministries - coal, power and environment and forests - after being questioned by the PMO to explain the power shortages that have gripped the whole country.

business Updated: Jul 17, 2012 01:35 IST
Anupama Airy

A blame game has begun within key economic ministries - coal, power and environment and forests - after being questioned by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to explain the ongoing power shortages that have gripped the whole country over the past few months.

While the power ministry has decided to pass on the buck to the coal ministry over fuel shortages and delayed rains for reduction in hydel power generation, the coal ministry in a recent letter to the PMO has stated that delayed environment clearance by the forest ministry resulted in inadequate coal production.

A bureaucrat told HT that the PMO is in a fix due to the tussle.

"We have been facing this situation almost every summer and shall continue to have power problems in the coming years untill the regulator and the government comes together and act," said RV Shahi, former power secretary. "While it is time to act, its is unfortunate that no one wants to take the blame for the accute power shortages in the country."

"We had to back down 20,000 mw of thermal power capacity as there was no coal," said Shahi. "While there has been an increase in thermal power capacity by 40,000 MW over the past three years, the production form CIL and its subsidiaries has remained stagnant at 430 mtpa."

A coal ministry official confirmed that the ministry has written to the PMO on 13 projects by different subsidiaries of CIL that are awaiting approval of the ministry of environment and forests.

"The environment clearance for another project--Bhubaneswari expansion open cast project (10-20 mtpa) of Mahanagar Coalfields Ltd has already been considered by the Expert Committee of MoEF but the final clearance is still awaited," the coal ministry official said.

"Since the project is in a position to produce more than 10 MT in the current year, we have sought the PMO's intervention over expediting environment clearance for this project and 13 other projects," he added.

The Planning Commission has called a meeting of state power ministers on Tuesday to address power issues.