The environment ministry will allow coal mining in additional 35,000 hectares of forestland in a bid to end its tug-of-war with coal ministry.
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh have been involved in a fiery exchange of letters over the “go” and “no go” areas for mining. The ministries had earlier categorised 3,44,000 hectares of forestland as “go areas”.
But the coal ministry retracted after mining firms resisted, saying this would mean 48 per cent of mining operations would not be undertaken.
“The domestic production that was expected to reach a level of 1,000 metric tonnes per annum (mtpa) by next decade will be pegged down to only 400 mtpa compared to our anticipated demand of 1,500 mtpa,” Jaiswal wrote to Ramesh, who said that increasing the “go areas” by 35 per cent would mean a huge loss of forest area.
On Jaiswal’s request, the environment ministry increased the permitted area to 3,80,000 hectares. But Ramesh said the rise in “go areas” does not mean automatic clearance.
However, the coal ministry officials do not agree to this reworked categorisation.“The environment ministry has offered us additional land but the proposal is not acceptable as we want at least 35 per cent increase in mining area,” a coal ministry official said. “We want a third option of “may go” areas in “no” go areas, which the environment has not accepted.”