Parts of Rajasthan had witnessed several hours of power cuts in September and October after coal stock depleted at power plants that supply electricity to the state.
Weeks after several states faced an energy crisis due to depleting coal stocks, the Congress-led Rajasthan government has asked Chhattisgarh to fast-track the development of its two coal blocks in the state to help aid electricity production and ward off any blackouts. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last month wrote to his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel, who is also from the Congress party, urging him to clear roadblocks in the development of the two coal blocks that were allocated to his state in 2015, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by PTI.
Parts of Rajasthan had witnessed several hours of power cuts in September and October after coal stock depleted at power plants that supply electricity to the state. In 2015, the central government had allocated three coal blocks in Chhattisgarh to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (RVUNL) but only one of them has been able to commence production. The other two blocks are stuck in procedural delays. RVUNL produces 15 million tonne of coal from Parsa East and Kanta Basan block and the opening of other Parsa and Kente Extension blocks will double the production. Gehlot in the letter said Parsa coal block has the potential to produce 5 million tonne per annum of coal. Similarly, Kente Extension can give an additional 9 million tonne per annum. He sought the intervention of Baghel for necessary clearances for Parsa and Kente Extension blocks.
For Forest Clearance Stage-II, the Union Environment and Forest Ministry had in April 2019 asked the Chhattisgarh government to get biodiversity assessment study done of the Parsa block and give its recommendations, he wrote adding the study has been received by the Chhattisgarh administration but it has not been acted upon. For Kente Extension block, “the district officer of Surguja deferred the necessary public hearing for the environment clearance twice,” he said. He urged Baghel to send a forest clearance recommendation for the Parsa block to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and ask the district officer to conduct the public hearing for the Kente Extension block at the earliest.The fate of Rajasthan’s Rs 40,000 crore investments in power generation assets depends on coal production at these blocks.
Currently, Rajasthan is largely dependent on state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) for imported fuel for generating electricity. Disruption in coal supplies from CIL coupled with a spike in imported coal prices had prompted RVUNL to secure fuel from its captive blocks. Rajasthan has close to 28,400 MW of installed electricity generation capacity. While RVUNL had received forest clearance from the union government to start mining at Parsa coal block, the development of Kente Extension continues to be stuck as the Chhattisgarh government has not been able to conduct the public hearing.
Besides Gehlot, state chief secretary Niranjan Arya had previously written to his Chhattisgarh counterpart Ajay Singh for arranging a public hearing for Kente Extension Coal block at the earliest. “It is of utmost importance that coal supplies to linked project from allocated Kente Extension Mine be commenced at the earliest in order to bridge the gap between demand and availability of power of the state,” Arya had written on September 10. Prior to these letters, Gehlot had on October 7, 2020, written to Baghel saying his “state has invested more than Rs 40,000 crore in thermal power stations. Parsa and Kente Extension in Hasdeo Arand Coalfield of Chhattisgarh “fulfill the majority of coal requirements of current, as well as upcoming RVUNL power stations and, are essential to ensure fuel security in the form of uninterrupted supply of coal to produce electricity for the state,” he had written.