PM approves formation of 12-member GoM on coal

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New Delhi, Feb 4 (PTI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hasapproved formation of a ministerial panel, headed by FinanceMinister Pranab Mukherjee, to sort out environmental issueshurting coal production.

This comes in the backdrop of ever widening demand-supplygap in Coal which is likely to touch 142 Million tonnes nextfiscal and classification of 203 coal blocks by environmentministry as "no-go" zones.

"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given consent for theformation of a 12-member Group of Ministers (GoM), mainly toconsider issues impacting coal production and developmentprojects in the country," a top Coal Ministry official toldPTI.

The panel has been asked to finalise its recommendationswithin two months.

The GoM includes Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal,Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Home Minister PChidambaram, Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, Mines MinisterDinsha Patel, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and CommerceMinister Anand Sharma among others, the official said.

Other members of the GoM are Agriculture Minister SharadPawar, Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Transport Minister C PJoshi and Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Montek SinghAhluwalia.

"The GoM will consider all issues relating toreconciliation of environmental concerns emanating fromvarious developmental activities including those related toinfrastructure and mining and finalise its recommendationswithin two months," the official said quoting notification.

It will finalise the recommendations which will includeissues like -- efficacy and legality of forest clearancenorms, damage to environment due to projects and afforestationsteps.

It will also suggest whether changes are required in theexisting laws and provisions.

Concerned over coal shortages faced by various sectorsincluding the power, the PM has already asked the Ministry ofEnvironment and Forests to revisit the policy of no-go and goareas.

Earlier, the Cabinet on January 13 had approved formationof a GoM to solve the vexed issue of mining in "no go" areasas classified by the Environment Ministry.

Coal and Environment Ministries had locked horns overthe issue after the latter last year classified 203 coalblocks under ''no go'' area prohibiting mining there, impacting660 million tonne coal production per annum.

The coal shortage faced by the country this fiscal is 82million tonnes (MT) and is likely to soar to 142 MT nextfiscal.

Coal Ministry had said various companies had alreadycommitted Rs 35,000 crore for end-use projects in lieu of coalblocks allotment.

It had also argued that this would augment about 1,30,000MW potential power generation capacity per annum. PTI SID SSRNAM

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