ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Myopia on Coal

The brouhaha over Coalgate has pushed the genuine long-term issues in coal to the background. India's coal reserves are smaller than estimated and the flurry of coal-based power plants that have been approved in recent years has seen a frenetic rush to tie up coal resources, which at this rate would last no more than 20 years. Auction of mines is by itself no solution to the problems created by private allotment; auctions need to be carefully crafted and there should be production-sharing contracts monitored by a statutory regulator. Last but not the least, there is the issue of pollution and environment degradation caused by the mining and burning of coal. India needs a strategy based on demand management of energy, including introducing efficiency improvements in both the coal and the electricity sectors. It also needs to make a decisive shift in favour of renewable sources of energy. The country needs to move away from coal as quickly as possible.

The ongoing probe into “Coalgate” has generated more heat than light on the future of the coal sector in India.

It has pitted one political party against the other in a mutual blame game. Honesty in decision-making has come face to face with an outright, dishonest cult of crony capitalism. There are some who will not accept anything less than an across-the-board cancellation of all the irregularly allotted coal blocks, while there are others who want the business-as-usual approach to continue, allotting blocks in a non-transparent manner under the guise of quickly meeting a demand, that has been artificially hiked. In the process, genuine, long-term concerns of coal mining and their associated impacts have got relegated to the background and a myopic vision has come to the forefront, obfuscating the real issues of the coal sector.

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