India: Coal-fired plants starve in Chhattisgarh owing to lack of coal

The coal excavated in the state is being sent outside is not only depriving the local industries but also causing annual loss to the local economy.

Despite 20 percent of the total coal production in the country, various thermal power plants and industries in Chhattisgarh are starving for a sufficient supply of fuel. Over 7000 mega watt (MW) capacity industies have been shut down due to lack of coal available to them. Chhattisgarh has nearly 18 percent of the nation’s coal reserves. South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL), a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd (CIL), operates with a production target of 165 million tons annually, though the state requires just 19 percent of it, which is around 32 million tons for coal-fired power stations and industries.

However, merely 50 percent of the state’s small requirement of coal are cited to be met. Owing to huge coal reserves in Chhattisgarh over 200 units have set up their operations expecting convenient access to coal supply from the mines. But the coal excavated in the state are being sent outside which not only “deprived the local industries but also causing annual loss to the state exchequer of Rs 200 crore” and hampering the local economy.

While admitting that large share of coal goes outside the state, SECL deputy manager (public relation) Milind Chahande said, “SECL provides coal on the basis of its fuel supply agreement and we fulfil the given target. Power plants remain our priority. Those who are in need should sign the agreement with us”.

The issue was raised during the stockholder consultation meet couple of months ago in Raipur when the ministry of coal “assured” that due care would be taken while framing the decisions of local requirements in future. But nothing so far happened at the ground, claimed the key stakeholders, further asserting that the coal demand in Chhattisgarh has risen and many are forced to procure it from outside at almost double the price.

Suggesting a way out, the executive president of Jindal Steel & Power Ltd, Pradeep Tandon stated that the coal blocks of Chhattisgarh allotted to entities/Public Sector Units outside the state must provide a percentage of their mined coal to starving power plants in Chhattisgarh.

What emerges as another concern is the coal stock at power plants across the nation. It has increased to 131 MT per MW but in Chhattisgarh just remains dismal with only 48 MT per MW.
“It clearly indicates the priority is being given to power plants outside the state”, claimed a stakeholder heading coal business in a corporate sector.

“Besides saving the outside entities of high freight cost and reduce traffic on already saturated railway network, it will facilitate supply of power by plants in Chhattisgarh to outside entities at locations of their choice. It will be beneficial for both the coal block allottee and the dormant power plants in Chhattisgarh”, Tandon opined.

While raising the issue during Zero hour in the ongoing Assembly, a senior legislator Dharamjit Singh drew the attention of the chief minister Bhupesh Baghel asserting that since the state has provided land and enabled the required clearances for mining, it was CIL’s responsibility to protect the interest of Chhattisgarh’s industries.

“Many of the 200 local industries had curtailed their production to half their installed capacities”, Singh informed.