Amid concerns over the safety of India’s nuclear power plants in the wake of the Japan nuclear crisis, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today underlined the need for coal-based power.

“ view of the questions that have been raised on nuclear power, we can’t say no to increased coal-based power projects. We need to produce more coal. We need more coal-based power,” Mr. Ramesh told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

Reacting to a question on the upcoming meeting of the group of ministers (GoM) on coal mining in “go and no-go” areas, the Minister said the Government was trying to find a “balanced solution.”

“We will be meeting soon and we are trying to find a balanced solution. We need to increase coal production, no doubt about it,” the Minister said.

“At the same time, we need to protect our forests. So we have to find a middle path,” the Minister said referring to the issues before the 12-member GoM chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The GoM had met last month in the backdrop of various controversies, mainly over “go” and “no go” areas in coal mines. The meeting, however, remained inconclusive.

The “no-go” classification by Environment Ministry in 2009 had disallowed mining in 203 blocks with the potential of producing 660 million tonnes of coal a year.

According to Coal Ministry estimates, the output from these blocks could have been used to generate around 1.3 lakh MW of power per annum.