The Union setting ministry has relaxed norms for the coal mining sector and thermal power stations, permitting thermal crops to change their supply of coal no matter its ash content material or mode of transport from the supply.
This implies that coal will be allowed to be transported by vehicles lined with tarpaulin sheets, even when the supply of the uncooked materials is situated an extended distance away.
The change was made in an workplace memorandum issued by the ministry on November 11, and comes after calls for by thermal power crops, who mentioned that the constraints have been main to delays in acquiring coal from new home sources.
“All the thermal power plants having environmental clearance can change the coal source (from imported to domestic, domestic to domestic and domestic to imported) including lignite through e-auctions, short-term linkage, long-term linkage other linkage options of the ministry of coal or any organisation recognised for allotting coal linkages without seeking the amendment in environmental clearance…,” the order, reviewed by HT, states.
Environment activists, nonetheless, mentioned the transfer could lead on to a spike in air pollution as a result of there’ll be no oversight of how altering the supply of coal would affect the setting.
Under the setting affect evaluation notification 2006, any change within the sourcing of coal required thermal power crops to search an modification within the environmental clearance (EC) granted to them. This would imply that setting ministry’s skilled appraisal committee would reassess the venture primarily based on the brand new supply. This was to make sure that the transportation and use of coal was monitored so as to guarantee emissions is low. Every EC often stipulates transport mode, which was rail/conveyor belt.
The new guidelines state that no modification will be required within the EC granted to the plant, even when the supply of coal, and consequently, its distance from the thermal power plant adjustments. Details relating to the situation of the coal supply; amount; high quality which incorporates (ash, sulphur, moisture content material and calorific worth); distance and mode of transportation, will solely have to be knowledgeable to the setting ministry and its regional workplace.
About transportation, the workplace memorandum advises thermal power crops that, so far as doable, transportation ought to be achieved by rail or conveyor belt or different setting pleasant modes. But highway transportation of coal will be allowed in tarpaulin lined vehicles, until railway or conveyor belt infrastructure is made out there. There isn’t any deadline about when this infra will be prepared.
“The EC is granted based on a specific source of coal and distance from the mine. Any change in source required an amendment in EC as conditions for appraisal change. Now we have done away with the need for that amendment,” mentioned a senior setting ministry official.
“We had asked the ministry a couple of times about the need to simplify these norms. This is for a simple reason. Mines keep changing. Every time there is a change in the mine location, there is unnecessary delay in amending the EC,” mentioned Ashok Khurana, director normal of the Association of Power Producers.
Experts have warned that this might lead to air air pollution, harm of roads in lots of areas by which coal will be transported and it weakens the setting appraisal course of for thermal power crops.
“The flexibility to change the source or coal or indefinitely using road transportation even as mandatory rail lines or conveyor belts are being put into place can be seen as part of the pool of exemptions and incentives being given to the mining projects. In effect, the ministry has replaced rule of law with flexibility of law that is to only suit the requirement of mining and coal power projects,” mentioned Kanchi Kohli, authorized researcher at Centre for Policy Research. “This no holds barred approach has serious implications for places and people where these decisions will be operationalised. Coal transportation will be carried out on public roads or village roads, none of which was in the original plans,” she mentioned.
“The ash content requirements for sourcing of coal were watered down earlier. So we are not being vigilant about the quality of coal. If coal is dirty and emission control equipment is not installed as per norms, then emissions will be high,” mentioned Anumita Roy Chowdhury, govt director, Centre for Science and Environment