The coal ministry has proposed the reduction of no-go areas for mining to 10% of the total forest cover as against 35% proposed by the environment ministry. This move, though could sound the death knell for forests, has wide support among Central ministries.
“It is felt that only the cases of pristine forests, or wildlife sanctuaries should be considered where coal mining may not be allowed,” the coal ministry said in a note prepared for the Cabinet’s consideration.
The argument is that without adequate coal, India may not be able to achieve high economic growth. There is a gap of 83 million tonnes of coal between demand and supply, projected to rise to 200 million tonnes by 2013-14, the note says.
The note comes after law ministry gave its opinion following a reference from the PMO that the environment ministry’s policy on go and no-go areas was not in consonance with the Forest Conservation Act, 1983. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had said Forest Advisory panel won’t allow projects in no-go areas.
Now, the coal ministry has sought the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure to issue directions of the environment ministry to speed up forest clearance for all coal blocks as per the current statutes and stipulations with exception of around 10%.
A majority of coal resources in India are in dense forests, which according to the Forest Survey of India are just 40% of the country’s total forest cover.
The coal ministry believes that 10% of forest areas in the coal field regions is enough to maintain bio-diversity. The ministry has also suggested that mining be allowed in wildlife corridors — regions used by animals to move across forests.
The Planning Commission and ministries such as power and road transport support the coal ministry. The plan panel has described the “go-no-go” concept as not advisable. “We have circulated a note on the environment ministry’s policy,” said plan panel member BK Chaturvedi.
Go areas: Where coal mines get clearance faster
No-go areas: Coal mines in these areas go through complete forest clearance process
Environment ministry refused coal mines in no-go areas
The coal ministry wants approval for mining at all coal blocks with the exception of around 10% of forest area
It says 154 proposals of Coal India are awaiting forest clearance