Green nods delayed due to unused clearances: MoEF

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 29 2012, 08:56am hrs
The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has defended its position on the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report citing delayed green nods that has hindered coal production. The ministry said it gave clearances in excess of what was required and projects are pending as these clearances are still unultilised.

The ministry claims to have given clearances worth 2.71 lakh MW of power capacity of which only 55,000 MW have been used till now. Further, it claims to have cleared 800 mt of coal against current demand of 436 mt. The ministry also said that most of the projects didn't furnish information related to coal linkages, acreage and sulphur content which delayed the green nods.

We cleared almost 2 lakh MW of power generation capacity in five years, more than what the 12thand 13th Plans envisage. The industry has not utilised much of this and now they are targeting dense forests, said an environment ministry official.

The CAG report had said: The abnormal time taken for obtaining mining leases, surface rights and subsequent land acquisition, rehabilitation issues as also enormous delays in obtaining forest and environmental clearances from the Centre and the state governments have severely hindered the commencement of production from captive coal blocks.

Many of these projects have not defined their coal linkages and we don't know from where is the fuel coming and the quality of coal. Besides, they don't share information on the ash and sulphur content. Hence, we can't give these projects the acreage required, the official added. In fact, the MoeF had decided to withdraw environmental and forest clearances to those project which does not commence work within five years of being accorded the approvals.

The 11th Plan projects a target of 50,000 MW of additional thermal power capacity and the 12th Plan asks for 1 lakh MW.

The ministry has cleared 1.05 million hectare of forest area in the last five years compared with 4.5 million hectare cleared in a span of 10 years before the Forest Conservation Act came into force.

Interestingly, the government's position is corroborated by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which says that in the past five years till August 2011, environment ministry granted clearance to 2,10,000 MW of thermal power capacity, in other words, 60,000 MW more than what was proposed till 2017. However, the capacity actually added is a mere 32,394 MW.