The Planning Commission has delivered a mix bag for environment minister Jairam Ramesh on his proactive policy to protest environment and forests from ill-effects of coal mining.
However, it served a stinker to the coal ministry on its afforestation record once the mines are closed.
The plan panel in its draft cabinet note, which will be considered by a Group of Ministers (GoM) on environmental issues later this month, says the shortfall in coal production because of environment ministry's 'go no-go' policy can be met by private developers, if the environment clearance is fast tracked.
The environment ministry has categorised 35% of forestland based on density of trees as no go for coal mining, which would have resulted in shortfall of about 40 million tonnes per year by the end of 11th plan in 2011-12.
"The areas, which have dense forests, should normally be excluded from mining and fully protected. If they fall within a coal block, these should be separately identified, so marked and protected. The mining should be continued only in rest of the area of the block," the panel said in the note.
The panel, however, advocated underground mining in dense forest areas, to which Ramesh has agreed.
In areas with poor quality of forests, the panel said, mining should be allowed without any delay and environment ministry's compensatory afforestation policy should apply.
Expressing unhappiness on compensatory afforestation in mining areas, the panel has recommended to the GoM that the environment and coal ministries should set up a joint mechanism for review of its progress.
The panel has, however, supported the commerce ministry's opposition to Ramesh's Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI), which had resulted in moratorium on allowing new industries in 43 industrial clusters saying the policy will have detrimental effect on overall energy needs.