Prime Minister Manmohan is scheduled to meet coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday evening to iron out differences between the two ministries that appear intractable.
Among the issues that are to come up for deliberation are: paucity of coal and its impact on upcoming power projects, resolution of the ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ system, and mandating Coal India (CIL) to enter into fuel supply agreements.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of the power ministry warning that denial of green clearances to coal projects would potentially jeopardise commissioning of power projects that would add 24,000 MW over the next two years.
The power ministry fears a shortfall in the supply of coal as CIL has indicated that it would be in a position to supply only 331 million tonne (MT) as against a required 426 MT. The immediate impact of any shortfall would be felt by plants commissioned in 2009-10 that would operate only at 42 per cent plant load factor, while those commissioned in 2010-11 (10,070 MW) would not operate at all, the power ministry said in a recent note to the government. The formula presented by Ramesh whereby his ministry is willing to compromise “to the extent possible” is also slated to come up for discussion.
“Jaiswal is likely to press for bailing out more coal blocks into the go areas. As of now the immediate need is to free at least 21 blocks including the ones earmarked for the Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPPs),” government sources said.
Ramesh has recently bailed out three coal blocks in the Hasdeo-Arand coalfields in Chhattisgarh. The environment ministry, however, has still enforced the moratorium under the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index in more than 15 coal-bearing areas.
Another area of concern is CIL's inability to expand its production level. The Planning Commission has revised downwards its scale of production to 630 Million Tonne in this fiscal from the originally envisaged production of 680 MT. The CIL top brass have told the coal ministry and the Plan panel that the key obstacle to enhancing production was delays in obtaining forestry clearances for its stranded projects.Jaiswal is expected to take up the issue of mandating the MoEF to issue forestry clearances within 150 days instead of 2-3 years currently.