Researchers have urged policymakers to switch to green energy and economy in Odisha’s Angul, one of India’s largest coal producing districts, before power grade coal reserves are exhausted.
The International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST), Delhi-based environmental pressure group, here on Wednesday released a report as to how Angul, Odisha’s biggest coal producing and key industrial district, can plan a just energy transition and build a green economy in the coming years.
According to iFOREST, Angul currently accounts for 12% of India’s and 56% of Odisha’s coal production. The coal production in Angul is expected to increase nearly by three times in the next 10 years, reaching over 300 million metric tonnes (MMT) by 2033. The sector has given direct employment to 1,68,000 - nearly 69% of them are informal.
“Coal production is expected to grow threefold over next 10 years in Angul, from 96.7 million metric tonne currently to 308.8 MMT by 2033. Mine closure will start after 2040 and the last mine will close by 2070, considering a full operational life. However, an accelerated and ambitious climate action to meet 1.5°C climate goals, requires coal production to be phased out by 2050 through strategic planning,” says the iForest’s analysis.
Chandra Bhushan, president and CEO of iFOREST, said, “While coal will dominate the district’s economy for the next 10-15 years, districts like Angul need to start planning for a just energy transition to support climate change mitigation, as Odisha is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.”
After 2035, the district should move to green energy and industries, based on growth of the renewable energy sector and technology advancements and viability, the organisation says listing out alternatives such as renewable-based electricity, hydrogen-based steel and urea production, production of green aluminium using renewable energy, and enforcing circular economy practices.
Moreover, about 33,000 hectares of land will be available from closure of coal mines and power plants over the next 3-4 decades.
“Besides, biological restoration, this high value land should be repurposed for investment in green economic activities, including, installation of solar photovoltaic, development of industrial and food parks, development of fisheries and tourism sectors. Reform in coal mine closure laws, and industry and land laws will be required to support investments,” it said.
iForest emphasised on enforcement of strong laws for pollution mitigation, waste management, and material reuse and recycling,. It will ensure a sustainable growth and well-being of the local community.
“Massive financial resources will be necessary for implementing just transition. Use of coal mining related funds, government support, private financing, and international cooperation will be necessary. As a seed fund, District Mineral Foundation and coal cess holds enormous opportunity. Even in an accelerated closure scenario by 2050, nearly ₹3 trillion can be available to support just transition combining these funds,” the analysis said.