India spent more than Rs 3.85 lakh crore on coal imports last year: Govt

Last year, India spent more than Rs 3.85 lakh crore on coal imports, the Ministry of Coal said
A file photo of Minister for Coal Pralhad Joshi
A file photo of Minister for Coal Pralhad JoshiEnergy Watch

New Delhi: Last year, India spent more than Rs 3.85 lakh crore on coal imports, the Ministry of Coal said on Thursday. “As a result of the efforts of the Ministry, the share of imports in total coal consumption reduced from 26 percent to 21 percent during the last five years. Still, India is importing more than 200 Million Tonnes (MT) of coal annually by incurring huge foreign exchange outflow. Last year, India spent more than Rs 3.85 lakh crore on import bill of coal. India has the fourth largest deposits of coal (in the world). It is, therefore, prudent to enhance domestic production so as to reduce import dependence,” said the Coal Ministry in a statement.

40 coal mines with 10 percent forest reserve in Chhattisgarh not auctioned: Govt

Stating that the government has been mindful of its responsibility to protect forests while increasing coal production, the Ministry of Coal said that over 40 new coal blocks have not been auctioned in Chhattisgarh because they had 10 percent of the forest reserves of the state. In addition, nine coal mines falling in dense Hasdeo-Arand coal field have also been kept out of the auction process, said the ministry. Similarly, at the request of the government of Tamil Nadu, three lignite mines have been excluded from further auction process, the ministry added.

“Ministry of Coal has always kept in view the recommendations of MoEFCC and state governments. No coal mine has even been auctioned by ignoring the suggestions of the MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change). For example, at the request of the government of Chhattisgarh, coal mines falling under Lemru Elephant Corridor have been de-notified. Coal mines of Coal India Ltd (CIL) are also not being developed and captive coal blocks have also been kept out of the purview of the auction. Areas beyond ‘Lemru Elephant Corridor’ have also been considered for exemption on the request of the government of Chhattisgarh. These decisions of Ministry of Coal clearly indicate our responsibility to protect forest areas despite industry demands to put them under auction,” the ministry clarified.

Coal-bearing areas of the country are located in forest-rich geographical areas. “While the government is committed to protecting and promoting conservation and preservation of forests, however, keeping in view the need of the economy and energy demand, more and more coal mines are required to be made operationalised. At the same time, the Ministry of Coal is deeply conscious of protecting forests, therefore, only minimum forest area required is diverted and double the area is compensated for the lost forest area,” said the ministry.

‘PSUs have made remarkable progress on eco-friendly initiatives’

“Under the guidance of Ministry of Coal, Coal/Lignite Public Sector Undertakings have made remarkable progress on sustainable and environmentally friendly initiatives. Notably, they have successfully increased green cover by planting over 265 lakh saplings, covering approximately 12,358 hectares from FY 2018-19 to FY 2023-24. In FY 2023-24 alone, they exceeded their target by planting 51 lakh saplings, covering 2,734 hectares,” said the Coal Ministry.

A file photo of Minister for Coal Pralhad Joshi
Coal despatch in FY24 could exceed 1-BT mark for first time: Coal Ministry

They have also developed 15 eco-parks and mine tourism sites over the past five years, with seven integrated into the local tourism circuit, and plans for 19 more in coal mining areas to promote sustainable tourism and environmental conservation. In fact, afforestation undertaken by CPSEs on non-forest de-coaled land, is now permitted to be used as land bank for future compensatory afforestation. Accordingly, over 2,800 hectares of afforested land has been offered for accredited compensatory afforestation.

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