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Jairam-GoM At Odds Over Coal Blocks Issue

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The Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, met for the second time within a couple of months to sort out the inter-ministerial tussle on the environment norms affecting various projects, especially in the coal sector.

"The 'go' or 'no-go' issue (involving 203 coal blocks) will be decided on a case to case basis," Verma told reporters after the meeting.

However, indicating that the issue is yet be resolved, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said that discussions were still on.

Ramesh said the next round of meeting of the GoM would be held by the end of this month. "Things are progressing...We will be meeting again in the next 2-3 weeks," he said.

When asked whether the entire criteria of classification of 'go' and 'no-go' areas by the environment ministry will be reviewed, Ramesh said "there is absolutely no such question".

Meanwhile, coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal hoped that a pragmatic solution between coal and environment ministries would be found.

He said the two sides tried to find a solution so that the country's environment is protected and, at the same time, power generation is not impacted. "We will find a middle path to resolve these issues," Jaiswal said.

In 2009, the 'no-go' classification by Environment Ministry had disallowed mining in 203 coal blocks, having a potential of 660 million tonnes of production a year.

Meanwhile, stating that Ramesh's approach was "very liberal", Verma said that the meeting was able to make a significant headway and vexed issues are likely to be resolved in the next sitting.

Verma expressed the hope that seven coal projects of his ministry (steel) stranded on green norms would be cleared, but he could not spell out any time-line for that.

The 12-member GoM, which also includes Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Road Transport Minister C P Joshi, met to iron out inter-ministerial differences, mainly over "go" and "no go" areas.

According to the Coal Ministry estimates, the output from those 203 blocks could have been used to generate around 1.3 lakh MW of power per annum.

The GoM was constituted at the behest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in February to resolve inter-ministerial differences.