Environment

CAG faults Coal India over green concerns

A view of the Bharatpur Mines of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited at Talcher. File

A view of the Bharatpur Mines of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited at Talcher. File   | Photo Credit: Raghuvir Srinivasan

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Report finds several discrepancies.

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on the environmental impact due to mining activities and mitigation measures at Coal India Limited (CIL) and its subsidiaries, has found several discrepancies.

The Central government had formulated the national environmental policy in September 2006, but the CIL formulated a comprehensive policy only in March 2012, followed by a revised one in December 2018.

The Environment Ministry, while giving environment clearances for the projects of subsidiaries from time to time, had stipulated that a well laid down policy — duly approved by the Board of Directors of the subsidiaries — needed to be in place. Six of the seven coal producing subsidiaries of CIL did not comply.

“Although guidelines containing the responsibility and delegation at different levels in environment discipline were formulated by CIL, the same were not dovetailed in their operating manual by the subsidiaries,” CAG said in its report.

On air pollution and control measures, the audit watchdog said in 12 of the sampled 30 operating mines and washeries, against 96 air quality monitoring stations, only 58 (60%) were established. In all, 12 mines of four subsidiaries had not installed the continuous ambient air quality monitoring systems linked to the State Pollution Control Boards’ servers.

The average ash content in the coal extracted from four mines of the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited ranged between 40.1% and 43.8%. Ash content in the coal supplied by the Central Coalfields Limited also exceeded 34%.

Although the norms for monitoring of particulate matter came into effect from November 2009, in Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), it started from May 2015. The PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels exceeded the prescribed norm at several locations.

Shortcomings were noticed in the implementation of prescribed CIL guidelines (March 2014), in 17 of the 28 operating mines selected for scrutiny. Incomplete works related to railway siding, due to which coal was transported via road, were cited as a reason for dust generation.

During 2012-18, pollutants exceeded the limits prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards in eight of the 28 scrutinised mines. During 2013-18, 62 lakh kilolitre of untreated water was discharged in neighbouring water bodies. Further, three subsidiaries continued to use ground water for mining operations without getting a no-objection certificate from the Central Ground Water Authority.

The subsidiaries did not install sewage treatment plants at residential colonies of the collieries. Rejects from the Kathara washery were found to be contaminating the Damodar river.

ECL did not set year-wise internal targets for biological reclamation of mined-out areas through plantation activities. Fly ash generated in several thermal power plants under CIL were not dumped properly.

Even nine years since the Jharia Master Plan had been approved, the BCCL had not formulated fire fighting activities as envisaged therein. Fire fighting activities had commenced in only 25 of the 45 projects, CAG noted.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 11:08:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/cag-faults-coal-india-over-green-concerns/article30289391.ece

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