The coal sector has been a major beneficiary of streamlining of environment clearance processes with some 130 million tonne (mt) of additional production capacity being made available. Union government-controlled Coal India Ltd (CIL) has got 44 projects off the ground after getting environment clearances since May 2014 when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government took office. Besides, officials said the company acquired some 2,900 hectares of land under the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act.
The company along with government officials monitored each of these clearances at the local level. “The company has been doing a constant follow-up with the environment ministry. Besides, greater inter-ministerial cooperation along with personal monitoring by the coal secretary helped in speeding up processes,” said a senior Coal India executive. Around half a dozen clearances were stuck with the West Bengal government alone. Despite problems with captive coal blocks that had to be reallocated through bidding after a Supreme Court judgement annulling the earlier allocation, CIL has been able to steadily increase its production. It recorded a six per cent increase in production of 494 mt during 2014-15. During April-June 2015 quarter, CIL produced 121.35 mt coal, which was 12 per cent higher than 108.32 mt produced during the corresponding period last year.
A large part of the incremental production came from the mines which got green clearances during the year. Of the 44 projects that got environmental clearances, around 40-50 per cent cases were for expansion of existing projects. “This helped since public hearing is not required in expansion cases,” said the CIL executive.
Wherever expansion was to be undertaken, CIL adopted the strategy of preparing a project during the time clearance was pending. This helped the company to start production immediately after environment clearances came. The maximum number of clearances came for the Eastern Coalfields, one of the CIL subsidiaries. It produced 40 mt of coal last year. Next highest was Western Coalfields Ltd that got nine clearances.
Officials said while the land is acquired under the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, compensation is given under the Land Acquisition Act but since the notification for land acquired by CIL so far was issued earlier, the compensation was under the old land law. Besides, in case of forest land, for every hectare of land acquired, 1.4 hectare is additionally acquired for afforestation.