To avoid a clash with the Union Environment and Forest Ministry over environmental clearance for coal projects, the Coal Ministry has sought permission for mining on the land which is not under dense forest and wildlife corridor.

A proposal to this effect has been submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, by Union Minister of State for Coal Sriprakash Jaiswal. It is against the backdrop of increasing coal production that permission has been sought from Dr. Singh.

According to Mr. Jaiswal, a Group of Ministers (GoM) has been constituted by the Prime Minister for deliberating on the issue.

It is expected that a decision by the GoM would be taken within a couple of months, the Minister said.

Afforestation to be undertaken

Describing the issue pertaining to the dispute between the two ministries as alive, Mr. Jaiswal said it had been also proposed that in the case of environmental damage to light forests caused by coal mining, the task of afforestation would be undertaken by the Coal Ministry.

“The trees planted on the denuded light forest areas would be two and a half times more than the trees uprooted during the mining exercise,” the Union Coal Minister told reporters here on Monday.

He added that in 20 to 25 years, the area would be transformed into dense forest.

It has been also suggested that dereliction of duty by coal officials in the afforestation exercise should be treated as a serious offence.

Denied differences

Mr. Jaiswal said problems related to the threat to environment and forest areas and steps to increase coal production were inter-related. However, efforts would be made to ensure that no damage is caused to the environment and the forests during mining exercise.

He was quick to deny the reported differences with the Union Environment and Forest Ministry.

The policies of the environment and coal ministries were the common policies of the United Progressive Alliance government, the Minister stated.

Alternatives being explored

Stating that alternatives for increasing coal output were being explored, Mr. Jaiswal said the feasibility of “clean coal technology” was being studied, with the possibility of “coal to liquid” (CTL) technology used in South Africa being adopted in India.

Proposal sought

The Minister said he had asked Coal India officials to submit a proposal on applying CTL technology.

Mr. Jaiswal said in future coal will be the main source for power, cement, paper and sponge iron.