The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is likely to discuss with the Environment Ministry the possibility of doing away with the mandatory public hearing for according clearances to Coal India projects requiring expansion of up to 25 percent.
The move is aimed at helping the country address acute fuel shortages, as Coal India (CIL) accounts for over 80 percent of domestic coal production. "Recently, the PMO conveyed to the Coal Ministry that it will take up the matter with regard to allowing the existing projects of Coal India to carry out 25 percent expansion without public hearing," an official source said.
The PMO would take up the issue with the Environment Ministry, he said. Public hearing for environment clearance involves a meeting of all stakeholders, including villagers of the area to be affected, the district administration, the company and the government representatives to ensure minimum damage from the project.
CIL subsidiaries seeking environment clearances without public hearing include 6-7 mines of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd and two mines of Northern Coalfields Ltd among others. Earlier, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)had assured the Coal Ministry that necessary changes in the existing regulations regarding public hearing would be made.
Around 168 projects of CIL are awaiting clearances from MoEF, hurting production of 200 million tonnes of coal per annum. The demand and supply gap of coal, which touched 161.5 million tonnes (MT) last fiscal, is likely to scale to 200 MT by the end of 2016-17.