No Clearance for Captive Coal Blocks in ‘Inviolate’ Forest Areas: Green Min [%new%]
The environment ministry has said that captive coal blocks for ultra mega power projects located in forest areas demarcated as “inviolate” will not be considered for clearance, a move likely to upset industry, particularly power sector majors.
However, as a measure of relief for developers of the 4,000 mw projects, the ministry has said in its December 30 order that in the event the captive coal block is not located in an “inviolate” area, it will delink the clearance for the 4,000 mw projects from the coal blocks, according to people aware of the development.
At present, environmental clearance for ultra mega power projects (UMPP) is held in abeyance till such time that forest and environmental clearance for the captive coal block is not secured.
The order was issued in response to concerns raised by the power ministry over environmental clearance for UMPPs. Two projects—one at Tilaiya in Jharkhand being developed by Reliance Power and the other at Bedhabahal in Odisha, which is currently under bidding—have faced delays in environmental clearance on account of problems with the captive coal blocks.
The Tilaiya project was allocated two coal blocks at Kerendari BC coal mines. However, these blocks have yet to secure forest clearance. Similarly, the Odisha project had been allocated three coal blocks, of which two, Minakshi B and dipside of Minakshi, are yet to secure forest clearance. Several other UMPPs face similar problems.
In some cases, the captive coal mines are located in areas designated as “inviolate” or out of bounds for industrial activity by the environment ministry committee that analysed forest cover on the basis of six factors—forest type, biological richness, wildlife value, density of forest cover, integrity of landscape, and hydrological value. The government is yet to take a final view on the recommendations of this committee. The environment ministry order makes it clear that till a final view is taken on the recommendations, the ministry will “review the details of the linked coal blocks using the criteria suggested in the report”.
However, last week the coal ministry sought an explanation from Power Finance Corp, the promoter agency for the UMPPs, for the delay in commencing production from the linked captive mines. In this context, the environment ministry has revised its earlier order of holding environment clearance for the power project in abeyance till forest and environmental clearance for the linked captive coal block is obtained.