A parliamentary panel has expressed shock over the delay in forest clearances to 59 coal projects, hurting production targets by companies, engaged in coal mining.
"The Committee is shocked to observe that the inordinate delay in getting forest and environment clearances has been badly affecting the coal production target by the coal companies," said the Standing Committee on Coal and Steel.
The panel is constrained that 59 coal projects have been held up for want of forest clearances, it said adding, "The committee deprecate that the (coal) ministry has failed to act as a facilitator on behalf of coal companies for getting necessary clearances from different agencies."
The country’s largest producer, state-owned Coal India, which accounts for more than 85 per cent of the domestic production has already lowered its coal production target for the 2011-12 to 486 million tonnes from 520 million tones earlier mainly in view of such delays.
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, in a report on status of implementation of recommendations of the committee said "...it is a fact that forestry clearances are getting unduly delayed..."
However, he said, these issues have been taken up at highest level and both the Coal and Forest Ministries are meeting frequently to resolve the issues.
"Further, the issue of forestry clearances is also being addressed at the level of Prime Minister’s office to resolve the pending issues concerned with different ministries."
The coal and mines ministries are at loggerheads on the issue of classification of coal mining belt into ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ areas which saw the ministries of coal and environment locking horns.
As per such a classification, about half of the coal bearing forest area of nine coalfields has been declared no-go area, due to which, the coal ministry says, the country could see a coal shortage of 500 million tonnes in next few years.