MoEF initiates steps to expedite clearances of coal projects

MoEF initiates steps to expedite clearances of coal projects

New Delhi: Ahead of the crucial meeting of the GoM on Thursday to sort out vexed issues hurting coal output, environment ministry has sent teams to Coal India’s stranded projects to reassess potential pollution threat and come out with mitigation measures to expedite clearances.

“The environment ministry a few days back sent teams to CIL’s those coal projects falling under high pollution category as per Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) to prepare an action plan to mitigate pollution after assessing its extent," a coal ministry official said.

The teams have been sent to states including Orissa and Chhattisgarh where CIL’s about 15 coal projects are stranded due to CEPI norms and are awaiting environmental clearance for the projects in Mugoli in Maharasthra, IB Valley in Orissa and Dhanpuri in Madhya Pradesh.

The teams are likely to submit their report in March, the official said adding that the steps are being taken to expedite clearances to projects.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in January had asked the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) to revisit projects under CEPI.

CEPI is a useful tool to capture various health dimensions of the environment, and acts as an early warning tool to facilitate early intervention.

CIL, the country’s largest producer has already said that its production from nine coalfields are likely to be impacted due to restrictions under the CEPI.

The company said that incremental coal production would be affected due to the ban.

CIL, which accounts for over 80% of the domestic production, expects to reach a production figure of around 440 million tonnes by the fiscal-end against a target of about 460 MT.

In 2009, the MoEF had introduced CEPI to categorise the environmental quality at given locations and conducted a nation-wide assessment of industrial clusters.

In a notification in January 2010, the MoEF had imposed a temporary moratorium on development projects in 43 clusters labelled critically polluted as they had a CEPI score of more than 70.

In a circular in October in 2010, the MoEF further extended the moratorium considering projects located in critically polluted areas or industrial clusters for environment clearance (EC) till 31 March 2011.

Before the maiden meet of the 12-member GoM on Thursday, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and environment minister Jairam Ramesh have met twice to reach an amicable solution on CIL projects, hanging due to non-receipt of environmental clearance.

The coal ministry has expressed confidence that 15 of CIL’s projects that have been waiting for environmental clearance were likely to get the green nod in another two months.