KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has censured sate-miner Coal India Limited (CIL) on environmental discipline, air quality monitoring, high polluting operations and contamination of ground water.
In a report, “Assessment of Environmental Impact due to Mining Activities and its Mitigation in Coal India Limited and its subsidiaries,” CAG has observed that pollutants levels exceeded the limits prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards at eight mines.
Also, 62 000 000 kilo-liters of untreated water was discharged to nearby water bodies by mines of subsidiary Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) during 2013 to 18 thereby contaminating ground water, the report said.
Extraction of coal therefore involves serious environmental and social concerns including, air, noise, water pollution, land degradation with far reaching consequences on local bio-diversity. Most of the coal reserves in India are located in river basins which are rich in forest cover and habitats of precious wild life and indigenous tribal communities, the reported noted.
CAG called for a ‘reset of climate debate on coal as a fuel against the backdrop of India becoming one of the top renewable energy producers in the world with ambitious capacity expansion plans. Also India’s per capita power consumption of 1 149 kW/h is among the lowest in the world against 3 600 kW/hour per capita globally.
The report recommended that “the companies in coal sector put in place an ‘environment policy and the capital works relating to pollution control measure be completed expeditiously.”
According to the CAG, CIL has followed inconsistent manpower deployment for pollution control and monitoring functions. Citing examples, it said that deployment of executives exceeded sanction strength at its headquarters in Kolkata, it fell short at the mines during 2013/18. The extent of excess deployment at headquarters ranged between 20% and 120% of sanctioned strength whereas in case of North Eastern Coalfields Limited, the shortage of executives ranged between 33% and 100% during the period and inconsistencies of deployment of manpower had an effect on environmental activities of CIL subsidiaries.
The report observed that even after lapse of 9 years since the “Jharia Master Plan” was approved for control of underground fires raging across mines of CIL’s Bharat Coking Coal Limited, the company had not formulated fire fighting activities as laid down in the Plan.
“Fire fighting activities commenced in 25 projects against 45 projects identified for measures to control underground fires this continues to endanger lives of people residing in and around the fir area and adversely impacting the environment,” the CAG report said.