Coal blocks auction disastrous from ecological viewpoint: Ramesh

New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Friday wrote to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on the coal blocks auction saying it is “triple disastrous” from an ecological viewpoint as several mines fall in dense forests.

In the letter to Javadekar, Ramesh, who himself was Environment Minister in the UPA government said, “I am writing to express my deep sense of shock at the manner in which coal blocks in areas of very rich biodiversity were put up for auction.”

He said the Environment Minister would have the records of “the go” and “no go” classifications of coal blocks made by a joint team of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Coal India in 2009-10. The classification was at the suggestion of the then Chairman of Coal India that “I had accepted readily”.

Ramesh said, “Nine major coalfields had been studied and about 70 percent of the coal blocks fell in “go” areas — these could, prima facie, be considered for app(roval) but with no absolute guarantee for the approval and 30 per cent were in “no go” area — these should, under no circumstances whatsoever be even considered for mining.” He added, “I know that this 70:30 mix has been considerably diluted over the years.”

His remarks came a day after the government on Thursday started auction of coal mines for commercial extraction by the private sector. In all, 41 mines with a total geological coal reserve of 17 billion tonnes are on offer under the first phase of commercial coal mine auctions. These include both large and small mines with peak rated capacities (PRC) ranging from 0.5 to 40 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of coal. The cumulative PRC of all mines is 225 mtpa.

The mines on offer are largely fully explored ones meaning that they could be brought to production immediately. Moreover, more coal mines are on offer that could provide input to the steel sector. The mines are located in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha.

The Congress leader said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Javadekar have spoken eloquently in global forums on India's commitment to fight global warming. “What sort of commitment is this that coal blocks in very dense forest areas are being opened up for mining? It is a triple disaster,” he said.

Ramesh said that first the mining and transportation of coal will impose a very heavy environmental cost, second the loss of very dense forest cover will mean loss of a valuable carbon sink and third public health will be even more severely affected adding to the crisis we are already facing.

“The Prime Minister had compared coal to diamonds yesterday. This is the language of 1970s and early 1980s. Nobody concerned with global warming and climate change now would have made such a statement,” he said attacking Modi. He said at a time when we should be thinking seriously of peaking or plateauing of coal production, the Prime Minister's statement shows that he does not walk the talk as far as what he preaches to the world on climate change.

Ramesh requested the government to take steps to ensure that the auction of coal blocks in ecologically fragile and sensitive areas is cancelled immediately.



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