Ramesh asked to free more of “no-go” areas for mining

Coal India’s forthcoming IPO forces a re-think in government


Sweta Ranjan | July 9, 2010

File photo of environment minister Jairam Ramesh
File photo of environment minister Jairam Ramesh

The controversy over “no-go” areas refuses to go. Even after Jairam Ramesh, the environment and forests minister, freed 10 percent of the “no-go” area for mining a couple of days ago, he has been asked to make more concessions following pressures from the coal ministry.

The latest directive came from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee who met both coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday.

In a statement issued today, the coal ministry said, “Ministry of coal and ministry of environment and forests have initiated an exercise to identify prima facie A and B areas for coal mining. Present A areas would be those areas with rich forest cover and bio-diversity where applications would not be entertained for forest land diversion. Present B areas would be those areas where prima facie the statutory Forests Advisory Committee in the MoEF would consider proposals for diversion of forest land for coal mining purpose.”


Coal minister Shriprakash Jaiswal (L) and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee

This exercise is being undertaken after Jaiswal complained that the MoEF’s categorization of “no-go” area would lead to substantial loss in coal production, and hence hamper economic development.

In a letter to the prime minister, Jaiswal has pointed out that 48 percent of the coal bearing forests have been declared as “no-go” area—an area where mining can not be permitted because of ecologically fragile nature and the rich biodiversity-- by the MoEF.

The immediate concern, however, is over the forthcoming IPO the Coal India Limited is planning to bring to mop of about Rs 15,000 crore by divesting 10 percent of equity.

Jaiswal has mentioned in his letter to the prime minister how valuation of Coal India Limited’s shares would be adversely affected if the “no-go” norms are not relaxed to allow mining. Particularly worrisome is the fact that the Hasdeo-Arand coalfield of Chhattisgarh, which has a rich source of high quality coal, continues to remain in the “no-go” area.

At present, nine coalfields comprising of 203 blocks with 48 percent of country’s coal reserves fall under the “no-go” area.




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