Environment Ministry increases coal mining zone in forest area

"Go areas" are the designated zones in forest areas where coal mining is allowed in case they meet the environment clearance. The decision to increase the go area in coal blocks came following intervention by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) after mining minister Jaiprakash Jaiswal expressed his unhappiness at the Environment Ministry's decision to declare 40 coal blocks under nine collieries as "no go area" where no mining will be allowed.

Jaiswal had complained to the PMO that dividing coal fields into "go" and "no go" area by the Environment Ministry would result in a massive 600 million tonne annual shortfall in production.

At the intervention of PMO, a joint survey was conducted recently wherein the ministries agreed to settle on 3.8 lakh hectares.

While the Environment Ministry proposed to put 3.49 lakh hectares into the "go" zone, the Coal Ministry demanded 4.5 lakh hectares.

However, the Hasdeo-Arand coalfields of Chhattisgarh have been excluded. The entire field remains firmly in the "no-go" zone in view of its ecological sensitivity.

Also, the new agreement includes some underground mines, which are environmentally preferable to the original strip mining proposals.

"This is for the first time that undrground mines have also been specified. We have no problem with such mining," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said recently.
The Environment Ministry has classified forest land into "go" and "no-go" areas for coal mining firms. According to the initial classification, the ministry had identified nearly 3,45,000 hectares of land where mining could be carried out, subject to environmental and other clearance.

The other areas were ‘no-go’ areas. "But go areas does not mean clean chit for clearance. "In such zones, environment nod will be given if green conditions are met.Otherwise it can be no zone as well," Ramesh said.

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