Jairam approves 3 new coal fields

Jairam approves 3 new coal fields

The  somersault followed  the minister’s sudden realisation that these coal blocks are “clearly in the fringe and not inside biodiversity-rich Hasdeo-Arand” and “persistence of Chief Ministers of Rajsthan and Chhattishagrh” in taking up the matter of approval for these projects with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Jairam had, earlier, rejected coal mining in these three blocks – Tara, Parsa East and Kante – on three occasions since January, 2010. Each time he cited the recommendations of Forest Advisory Committee(FAC), which had turned down all mining proposals in the area on ground of its adverse impact on the forests.

Ironically, Ramesh has now found six reasons to reject the FAC's latest recommendation (issued on Wednesday) disallowing mining in these three blocks. “As long as the mining is restricted in the fringe area and the state government does not come up with fresh applications for opening up the main Hasdeo-Arand forest, I am of the opinion that permission can be accorded for Tara, Parsa East and Kante,” he said.

Another key reason behind the u-turn is a “substantial change” in the mining plan that allowed for mining in a smaller forest area with less felling of trees. In Tara, the amount of medium density forest has been reduced from about 2000 hectares to 778 hectares while the total number of trees to be felled was brought down to 1.2 lakh from an astounding 8.5 lakh in the earlier plan.The quality of forest in other two blocks is poor compared to Tara.

In Parsa East and Kante, mining will be carried out in two phases with a provision of reclaiming degraded forest land. The approval of the mining projects has also to do with  submission of better wildlife management plans by the project proponents – IFFCO and Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd – as well as linking of these coal blocks to eco-friendly super-critical power stations.

The goal of meeting the national target of producing 52,000 MW of electricity in the 12 Plan, out of which roughly 42,000 MW would be coal-based power plants,also played a role in the project approval. “As the minister, I have to keep the broader development al picture in mind and balance our different objectives and considerations,” Ramesh said.

The minister had been in a constant tussle not only with chief ministers of various states but also his Cabinet colleagues, looking after coal and power portfolios, denying permissions to coal mines located inside and in the vicinity of forest areas.

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