The Environment Ministry has said that its clearance will have to be taken for mining projects in certain areas. The ministry has said that the exercise to identify go and no-go areas of the coal-bearing land was only indicative in nature and was not legally enforceable.
Replying to Power Ministry's proposal for three coal blocks — Meenakshi, Meenakshi B and Dip Side of Meenakshi, a ministry official said: "In this connection I am further directed to inform that identification of Category A (go) and category B (no-go) areas for coal blocks in the country has only indicative value and has no legal enforcement."
The ministry official in a communication to the Power Minister also said the exercise of categorisation Category A and B areas is in no way substitute to the statutory powers conferred to the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) under the Forest Conservation (FC) Act 1980. For every project in forestland, approval of FAC is mandatory.
"The provisions under the Act do not provide freedom to communicate the acceptance of any forest land for use of non-forestry purposes without passing through the statutory process," the official argued.
This has put a big question mark on the Environment Ministry's move to demarcate go and no-go areas, which if implemented could imply an outright loss of 600 million tonnes of coal production annually.
The Power Ministry had requested the Environment Ministry to consider enlisting the coal earmarked for the Orissa Ultra Mega Power Project in the go area. As per the joint exercise carried out by the Environment and Coal ministries, Meenakshi A was in the go area, Meenakshi B in no -go area while the third one was on the borderline.
The view of the ministry has settled the question that the categorisation is just indicative and does not mean automatic clearance for mining projects in go areas.
It can result in more trouble for Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, who has opposed the categorisation.