MUMBAI: Amid an ongoing controversy over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s draft report on coal allocation, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has strongly recommended giving the coal sector “infrastructure status” with tax holiday and duty exemptions.
Alternatively, the CEA has, in the draft National Electricity Plan for the 12th and 13th Five Year Plans (FYPs), made a strong pitch for the introduction of the concept of mega project in the coal sector.
This, the statutory body suggests, must be on the line of the power sector, where a mega status would be accorded to coal mines of production level of 5 MTPA (million tonnes per annum) or above and providing benefits of tax/duty concessions.
Further, the CEA has called for the use of state-of-the-art technology to improve the efficiency and productivity in coal mines. Prescribing related policy changes, it has emphasised the need for further liberalisation of the government’s import policies to facilitate the adoption of cutting-edge international coal-mining technology that guarantees high output, better efficiency and improved safety. On its website, where the CEA has uploaded the Plan, has sought views, suggestions and objections from all stakeholders.
The CEA’s recommendations are crucial, especially when it has projected a coal requirement of 842 million tonnes during 2016-17 (the terminal year of just-started FYP). Of this, the availability of input from from Coal India Ltd (CIL) is estimated at 415 million tonnes (mt).
Further, it anticipates the arrival of 35 mt coal from Singareni Collieries Company Ltd and 100 mt from the captive blocks allocated to power utilities, besides 54 mt to be imported by thermal power plants designed on imported coal. The CEA, thus, projects a total coal availability at 604 mt, leaving a shortfall of 238 mt of the material.
So, how will this gap be bridged? The CEA says power utilities are expected to import around 164 mt coal to meet the shortage in supply from CIL. Thus, the total quantity of coal expected to be imported is 218 mt (in addition to 54 mt coal likely to be imported by thermal power stations).
The CEA has further suggested the formulation of a nationwide resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) policy so as to to protect the livelihood of project-affected people. All coal-producing companies must implement its clauses so as “to bring in clarity and uniformity”, the authority says.
Moreover, land oustees can avoid erosion of compensation amount in a short span by implementing mechanisms such as interest-carrying deposits of the land compensation amount. The mine owner can raise this corpus partly or fully by, say, issuance of bonds, according to the CEA.
The authority has recommended the use of some of the post-mining land for cultivation by employing steps like earth-filling and putting in of fertilisers.
According to the CEA, such an R&R Policy for coal mining can also look at taking of agricultural land from local people on term lease and returning of land to the extent possible in an area where mining operation is completed after the development of that land so that cultivation can again be done.