New Delhi: The Centre Monday advised states not to build mega projects in coal-bearing areas, afraid that such a move would "sterile" at least 20 billion tonnes of the dry-fuel reserves and aggravate coal shortage in the country.
"We have asked Chief Ministers of coal-bearing states to not to allow large super structures or expansion projects on coal-bearing areas, as this would sterile at least 20 billion tonnes of reserves," Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaishwal told reporters.
The country is already facing coal shortage and any such step could hamper production of 400 million tonnes per annum, further widening the demand-supply gap in the country, Jaiswal said.
"Discreet steps are needed to ensure that coal-bearing areas in the country are left unencumbered and accessible for exploitation at a future date," Jaiswal said.
"I have written to Chief Ministers of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to take immediate necessary steps in this regard, as the coal requirement for expansion of thermal power generation is very high," Jaiswal added.
The Coal Ministry is against approval to NTPC's proposed 1,980-MW North Karanpura thermal power project in Jharkhand and has been pressing for relocation of the project, arguing the site is situated above an estimated 6 billion tonnes of coal reserves.
The foundation stone for Rs 8,000 crore project in Chatra district of Jharkhand was laid in 2001 and it was planned to be implemented during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-12).
The other such projects for which the Ministry has registered its protests include a power plant at Korba and a sports complex at Mand-Raigarh, both of which are located in Chhattisgarh, said a person privy to the development.
Besides, the Ministry is also against approval to about half-a-dozen projects in West Bengal including one which proposes construction of a helipad over a coal-bearing area.
The country faces a shortfall of 83 MT coal this fiscal which is set to go up further to 200 MT by 2013-14. India's coal production is projected at 630 MT in 2011-12 against a demand of 713 MT.
The coal deficit being faced by power utilities alone is expected to double to 104 million tonnes in the next fiscal, because of rapid increase in demand from the sector.
The deficit at present is being met through coal imports. Of the total installed power capacity of 159,398 MW in India, almost 50 percent is based on coal. Moreover, in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), of the over 60,000 MW capacity planned, 50,570 MW has been proposed to be coal-based.