Study shows 35% jump in green clearances to coal mine expansion projects
According to the website of the Ministry of Power, Government of India, almost sixty percent of power is still generated from fossil fuels.
NEW DELHI: At a time when India has pledged to meet 50 percent energy requirement from renewable sources by 2030, an analysis of coal mines granted environmental clearances in 2021 shows a 35 percent increase in capacity over the previous two years and most are expansions of existing mines.
The analysis of prior environmental clearance grants by the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), an environmental protection organization, shows an increasing trend in coal production capacity from 2019 to 2021. This comes as the country faced a coal shortage and several power plants were running below capacity generation.
Almost a 35 percent increase in coal production capacity in the year 2021 was observed majorly due to the capacity expansion projects and this could be the result of the measures taken by the ministry to promote coal production by easing processes and diluting the restrictions for coal mining projects under the paradigm of EIA notification, 2006, it noted.
The analysis mentions that provisions of public hearings have been significantly relaxed and more and more coal mining expansion projects have been exempted from the requirement of the public hearing. Public hearings are mandated under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2006 in order to give the community an opportunity to express their concerns and opinion about a proposed developmental activity. However, during 2014 -2015 the provision has been diluted systematically.
On September 15, 2017, the union environment ministry issued an office memorandum for environmental clearance (EC) which allows capacity expansion of coal mining projects up to 40 percent with the exemption of public hearing. Eighteen such projects (six projects in 2019, five projects in 2020, and seven projects in 2021) of a total of 39.834 MTPA (million tonnes per annum) capacity have been granted prior EC during 2019-21.
“This issue is of great concern as during 2021, almost 50 percent of the capacity increase of expansion projects coming for EC under the specific provision of EIA Notification, 2006, has been granted EC without any sort of public participation,” it said.
The forest area diversion for these projects shows a decrease in 2020 with respect to the year 2019 and again increased in 2021. When compared to forest land diverted in 2020, it was found that in 2021 the increase in forest land diversion is 826.96 ha, which is almost equal to the forest land diversion in 2019.
India has become the second-largest coal consumer in the world in 2020 (IEA 2021). China and India, account for two-thirds of global coal consumption, despite their notion to increase renewables and other low-carbon energy sources (IEA 2021). According to the website of the Ministry of Power, Government of India, almost sixty percent of power is still generated from fossil fuels.