A committee headed by Planning Commission member B K Chaturvedi has asked for incentives to states for faster ecology clearances for coal mining. It has suggested a larger share of power from the Centre’s unallocated quota, a larger allocation of coal blocks and higher special plan grants.
The committee has secretaries of the ministries of power, coal, environment and finance as members. It was set up last month by the 12-member Group of Ministers (GoM) on the tussle regarding the ‘No Go’ issue in mining. The GoM has met four times and is likely to discuss the committee’s recommendations on incentives in its next meeting on August 24.
“It is clear that due to the large number of cases for various types of clearances, processing at the state level gets delayed. An incentive regime needs to be operated for state governments to take interest in this process,” the committee has said in its report, given to the GoM on July 22.
Forest clearance for infrastructure projects is given in two stages by the Forest Conservation Rules, 2003.
In the first stage, the project proposal is agreed to in principle. Final approval is given in the second stage, after a compliance report on the conditions stipulated in the first stage is received from the state government.
For both the stages, the state government has to complete the process in 210 days. At the Centre, the process is expected to be final in 150 days for new projects and 120 days for lease renewals. However, it invariably takes between three and six years to get forest clearance. The central government has discretion over the allocation of 15 per cent of the 350 billion units of power generated annually by central generating stations, owned by public sector undertakings such as NTPC, from its quota to the states. The allocation is not fixed and the Centre distributes this unallocated power to states to tide over emergencies.
The committee’s proposal to give a higher share of the Centre’s quota to states processing forest clearances comes when states ruled by the opposition National Democratic Alliance are complaining of unfair treatment by the Union while allocating coal blocks, especially in power generation, and have asked for increasing their share from the Centre’s quota.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s national executive in Lucknow had passed a resolution asking for states to come together and put pressure on the UPA government. B S Yeddyurappa, the then chief minister of Karnataka, a BJP-ruled state, had last month met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and asked for allocation of coal blocks. he argued a severe and unprecedented fuel crunch had stalled development of critical infrastructure projects worth Rs 12,000 crore in the state’s power sector.