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Environment Ministry not to be rigid on coal mining projects

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Environment Ministry has agreed to "discuss" the coal projects on a "case-by-case basis", as it does not want to be seen as a spoilsport in industrial development through contentious 'go' and 'no go' mining policy, sources said.

The issue came up for discussion at the meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee which has been trying to resolve differences between the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)on the one hand and ministries of coal, steel and power on the other, since February.

The differences mainly relate to the the MoEF treating some forest areas as 'no go' for coal mining.

Sources said the MoEF pointed out at the GoM meeting that "if you (the coal ministry) have specific projects, you bring them to us and we will discuss the same...On the case to case basis".

While the MoEF does not want to be seen as rigid in its stand, the ministry is not willing either to foresake environment protection completely, sources said.

Earlier, a high level Committee, headed by Planning Commission Member B K Chaturvedi had recommended that the MoEF policy of 'go' and 'no go' for allowing or disallowing coal mines has no legal basis in the Forest Conservation Act,1980.

Talking to reporters after the GoM meeting, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said,"There were issues raised by the Chaturvedi Committee which have almost been resolved."

Asked whether any decision was taken with regard eight specific coal blocks, which are stuck due to the MoEF strict guidelines, Jaiswal said,"we have not reached that stage (of specifics)".

These blocks belong to the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Essar and the Aditya Birla Group.

A high level official source said that certain aspects would be looked into while considering the "case-by-case" coal-mining projects from the environment point of view. These include -whether the project is located in dense forests, or wildlife zones.

While the MoEF had put 203 coal blocks in 'no-go' mining areas, the Coal Ministry argued that potential coal production to the tune of approximately 660 million tonnes (MT) was affected due to the tough classification.

First Published: Tue, September 20 2011. 18:36 IST