A successor to the controversial go-no-go concept, the idea of declaring certain pristine forests as inviolate was proposed in 2012 but objective parameters defining those have not yet been put in place, Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said in an interview.
The new government is looking at keeping certain forested areas out of bounds for mining and other activities that could cause irreversible damage but leave the rest open for economic activity.
"Before the end of this month we will have definition. We will know what is an inviolate area. We can map out the mines and start developing mines," the Minister said.
"What is important is that you know and I know what inviolate area is," he said.
Earlier, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had introduced the concept of "go" and "no-go" classification of forest areas.
However, the "go, no-go"classification was later replaced with "violate" and "inviolate" areas. According to classification, industrial and development activity (including mining) is not allowed in forest areas classified as inviolate areas.
"Very fine, there must be inviolate areas. Forest cover of India should be protected so there should be concern. So tell us what is inviolate area," Goyal said.
The country's coal production took a hit following the introduction of 'go' and 'no go' area in 2009 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
"In 2009 'go' and 'no go' areas was introduced. You waste three years of this nation. Country's coal production remains standstill. Then when there is a lot of public outcry and pressure, again a knee-jerk reaction, you remove that but you got something to do to ruin India's development so you bring a new law called inviolate areas," the Minister said.
He said when the coal ministry checked about the "inviolate area" with the environment ministry the former was communicated that the latter was working on it.
"So for five golden years, India does not produce coal...we import coal. We ruin the current account deficit," he said.
The environment ministry earlier constituted a panel to formulate objective parameters for identification of such inviolate forest areas for any mining and related activities.
The committee chaired by Environment Secretary, in its report, included draft parameters for identification of inviolate forest areas which includes five additional parameters like 'forest type' and 'wildlife values'.
Environment Ministry had defined nogo areas for mining as those that have over 30 per cent gross forest cover or over 10 per cent weighted forest cover.
The 'nogo' classification has brought 206 coal blocks involving a production potential of 660 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) under its ambit.
The Coal Ministry had vehemently opposed nogo classification, by saying that not permitting coal mining in 206 blocks would affect about 1,30,000 MW potential power generation capacity.