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Coal crisis sparks ‘power struggle’ between 2 Congress-ruled states – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The coal crisis in the country has sparked a power struggle, literally, between two Congress-ruled states. Rajasthan, which suffered widespread blackouts due to fuel shortage at its power stations in recent months, has knocked at the Centre’s doors, saying the Chhattisgarh government is stalling plans to start two coal blocks and raise production from two other mines.
After repeated requests to the Chattisgarh forest department for clearance went unheeded, Rajasthan’s additional chief secretary Subodh Agarwal has sought the intervention of coal and power secretaries Anil Jain and Alok Kumar, respectively.
In separate letters to Jain and Kumar, Agarwal has stressed the need for the Centre to weigh in on the Chattisgarh government to take early action needed to start/raise production from the mines to ensure Rajasthan’s energy security.
Agarwal’s letter follows chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s missive to his Chhattisgarh counterpart and party colleague Bhupesh Baghel in October last year. “I would like to apprise you that Rajasthan has invested more than Rs 40,000 crore in thermal power stations installed in the state. These coal blocks fulfill the majority of coal requirements of current as well as upcoming RRVUNL (genco) power stations and are essential to ensure (Rajasthan’s) fuel security…,” Gehlot had told Baghel in a letter in October last year.
The blocks in question are, Parsa, Parsa East, Kanta Basan, and Kante Extension in the Sarguja district of Chattisgarh. Three of these blocks were allotted in 2015 to Rajasthan for fuelling 4,340 MW generation capacity. Located in the Hasdeo Arand forest area, the blocks and mines have been in the eye of protests by tribals who in October opposed mining activity in the area.
Agarwal says the Chattisgarh forest department is yet to give the necessary permission to start the Parsa block — with an estimated production capacity of 5 million tonnes per annum – even after the Union environment and forests ministry according to Stage-II forest clearance on October 21.
For the Kanta East and Kanta Basan mines, Agarwal says the state administration is yet to make the necessary amendment in forest clearance for handing over 1,136 hectares of land approved by the Union green ministry. The additional land is estimated to raise production from the two mines by 40% to 21 million tonnes a year from 15 million tonnes.
For the Kante Extension block with an estimated production of nine million tonne a year, Agarwal says the Centre needs to get the Sarjuguda district magistrate to hold public hearings needed for clearance.
Rajasthan witnessed blackouts in September and October due to coal shortages. Distribution utilities were compelled to increase power tariffs by 33 paisa per unit for the next three months as the cost of sourcing additional coal from the market and power from the exchanges rose on account of countrywide spike in demand and drop in production.
Rajasthan already has one of the most expensive electricity tariffs in the country and the state is facing challenges to keep its power affordable for its tourism sector. Power generation utility Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL) is finding it difficult to meet the state’s peak demand of 14,000 MW on account of inadequate coal supply from Coal India Ltd, state officials said on condition of anonymity.


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