Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure, Environment and Ecology
Why in news?
- Since 2015, of the 49 blocks cleared for coal mining, 9 were in ‘No-Go’ areas, according to a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report.
- In 2020, of the 41 blocks put up for auction, 21 feature in the original No-Go list.
- The CSE investigation pointed out that currently India was not utilizing its existing capacity fully and according to the Union Coal Ministry 67% of the mines auctioned since 2015 are not operational yet.
What is ‘No-Go’ Area?
- In 2009, the Environment and Coal Ministries had jointly placed the country’s forested areas under two categories – Go and No-Go zones.
- ‘No-Go’ areas are regions that were classified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change as containing very dense forests and hence closed to coal mining.
- The exercise is aimed at prioritising forest areas under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
- ‘No Go’ areas are those having either more than 10 per cent weighted forest cover (WFC) or more than 30 per cent gross forest cover (GFC).
Why no mining in those areas?
- Diversion of forest land, which are rich in flora and fauna, for coal mining in these areas is the main cause of concern as they will have “avoidable serious adverse impact on forests and wildlife”.
- If mining were to continue, even with afforestation and reclamation, it would not be possible to restore the regions biodiversity.
How were No-Go Areas given clearance?
- The government determines which of the dense forests are too ecologically important to leave untouched and which of them are amenable to be opened up using a ‘decision support system software’ that rated forest lands on environmental parameters.
- In some cases, the CSE investigation found that results of the software evaluation were “tweaked” to make ‘No-Go’ land into ‘Go-forests’.
- It also found that officials from the Coal Ministry, the beneficiary organisation, were “deputed” to work with the Forest Survey of India to “rework” conditions and clear forests for mining.
Recently in news: Privatization of coal sector
- Recently, the Prime Minister launched the auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining – following the center’s announcement under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, of opening the coal sector for commercial mining, ending the government monopoly on the sector.
- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy, 2017 was amended in 2019 to permit 100% FDI under automatic route in coal mining activities.
-Source: Down to Earth, The Hindu