India has relaxed environmental compliance rules for coal mines seeking to ramp up production as power outages exacerbate a sweltering heatwave, a government notice showed. Coal makes up more than two-thirds of India’s energy needs.
Soaring temperatures have prompted higher energy demand in recent weeks and left India facing a 25-million-metric-ton (mt) shortfall at a time when coal spot prices have skyrocketed since the start of the year. The environment ministry said it has allowed a “special dispensation” to the coal ministry to relax certain requirements, like public consultations, so mines could operate at increased capacities.
The relaxation comes after it received a request from the coal ministry “stating that there is huge pressure on domestic coal supply in the country and all efforts are being made to meet the demand of coal for all sectors.”
Coal mining projects previously cleared to operate at 40% capacity may now increase capacity to 50% without undertaking fresh environment impact studies, the authority said.
“The Ministry of Environment and Forests understands that they need to cut out the red tape,” coal ministry official Anil Kumar Jain said.
India needs 1 billion mt of coal annually to meet its current domestic demand.
Most of its needs are met by domestic producers, with a record 777 million mt mined in the fiscal year to the end of March. The shortfall is imported from countries like Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.
The government said it plans to increase domestic coal production to 1.2 billion mt in the next two years to support a post-pandemic economic recovery.
Despite a commitment to increase its renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by 2022 and 500 GW by 2030, Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi on May 6 said India’s coal needs are set to double by 2040.