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PMO turns to plan panel

delhi Updated: Nov 15, 2010 07:28 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
environment minister Jairam Ramesh

After being rebuffed by environment minister Jairam Ramesh, the Prime Ministers' Office is looking at the Planning Commission to come up with a new approach to balance economic growth with environment concerns.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had refused a PMO suggestion to revise his stand on "go and no go" areas for coal mining despite an adverse opinion by the law ministry. "My conscience does not allow me to agree with what is being proposed though it may have emanated from the PMO," Ramesh said, in a letter to prime minister's principal secretary TKA Nair in October.

The PMO had suggested the environment ministry increase the "go" areas for coal mining to 4.5 lakh hectares so 20 coal blocks from Hasdeo-Anand in Chhattisgarh could be allocated for two power projects.

Nair had held a meeting with the officials of coal and power ministries, who accused the environment ministry of unnecessarily blocking the projects. "The demarcation (go and no go) has no legal sanctity," a coal ministry official said.

Ramesh said increasing "go" area from existing 3.80 lakh hectares was not possible and allowing mining Hasdeo-Anand would mean a substantial loss of green cover. "It would be a gross dereliction of my ministerial responsibility if I agree with this approach..." he said.

The ministry last week decided that no power projects in future will be allowed without environment and forest clearances for coal mines.

To rectify the ministry's policy approach, the PMO had asked the plan panel to bring a draft paper on "speeding environment clearance" to the Cabinet. "The note has been circulated," said plan panel member BK Chaturvedi, who was asked by the PM to prepare a paper on balancing environment with economic growth.

The note reportedly talks about new technologies for mining of coal in dense forest areas and has rejected the concept of go and no-go areas.