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Green norms for coal mining projects relaxed after SOS from ministry amid power crisis

NEW DELHI: With the country facing a coal shortage amid a power crisis in several states, the Union environment ministry has decided to relax the mandatory compliance norms for coal mining expansion projects.

This comes after the coal ministry raised an alarm citing “huge pressure on domestic coal supply in the country” and seeking “enhancement of production of coal without any further delay”.

As a special dispensation, the environment ministry has decided to exempt environmental clearance for 50 per cent expansion in existing coal mining projects from required public hearings and environmental impact assessment to study its impact on the environment. The dispensation has been provided for a period of six months.

In an office memorandum dated May 7, the ministry noted that it is in receipt of a request from the ministry of coal stating that there is huge pressure on domestic coal supply in the country and all efforts are being made to meet the demand for coal from all sectors.

“It has been requested that existing coal blocks should be allowed for expansion of production capacity keeping in view the available reserves in the coal blocks and compliance with the conditions of the previous EC,” said the order, a copy of which is with The New Indian Express.

Several states in the country are facing an acute power crisis due to coal shortage amid an increase in power demand due to the heatwave. The weather office has issued an advisory for another round of heatwave across several states this week.

The Union coal ministry on Tuesday said that coal production in the country has increased by 29 per cent to 66.58 million tons during April and captive/other mines achieved 60 per cent production increase to meet the rising coal demand. It also said that coal despatch to power utilities is up by 18.15 per cent.

The environment ministry noted that the ministry of coal has further requested for relaxing the requirement of public consultation and preparation of Environment Impact Assessment/Environment Management Plan report for expansion from 40 to 50 per cent, for enhancement of production of coal without any further delay.

“The matter has been examined by the ministry. Considering the exigency that has arisen, it has been decided, as a special dispensation, that those coal mining projects which have been granted an expansion of Environment Clearance (EC) up to 40 per cent of original EC capacity as per provisions of April 11 order, shall be granted EC to increase their production capacity to 50 percent of original EC capacity, within the same mine lease area without requiring revised EIA/EMP report for additional capacity and public consultation,” the environment ministry noted.

The environment ministry on April 11 had given exemption from public consultation and environmental impact assessment for coal mining projects for expansion up to 40 per cent within the existing premises/mine lease area, without additional land acquisition