Warning of a power crisis in the state, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has tapped Congress President Sonia Gandhi for the second time in three months to get Chhattisgarh to speed up clearances for mining coal for power plants.
Power generation units in Rajasthan have an allocation of coal from mines in Chhattisgarh but delays in state-level clearances have stalled most of them.
Gehlot first wrote to Sonia Gandhi on December 1, 2021, and then again on February 10, according to copies of the letters seen by PTI.
'Rajasthan state may suffer power crisis due to outage of 4,340 MW power plant on the ground of non-availability of coal' from a block in Chhattisgarh, Gehlot wrote to his party president in the latest letter.
This, he said, 'might adversely reflect on the performance of the government of Rajasthan and create a precarious situation as both states are governed by Congress'.
'May I request you to kindly intervene and advise the Chief Minister, Chattisgarh to ensure arranging all the requisite pending approvals' for the coal blocks to enable Rajasthan 'to start mining activities at the earliest to avoid a power crisis in the state in future', he added.
Parts of Rajasthan had witnessed several hours of power cuts in September and October 2021 after coal-stock depleted at power plants that supply electricity to the state.
Gehlot wrote to Gandhi after his letters to his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel did not cut much ice.
In 2015, the central government had allocated three coal blocks in the Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (RVUNL) but only one of them has been able to commence production. The other two blocks are stuck in procedural delays.
RVUNL produces 15 million tonnes of coal from Parsa East and Kanta Basan (PEKB) block and the opening of other Parsa and Kente Extension blocks will double the production.
As much as 4,340-megawatt (MW) power plants of RVUNL are linked with the PEKB coal block in Chhattisgarh.
'Initially, in mining from Phase-1 762 hectare forest land of this coal block started in the year 2013 and is currently operating at peak capacity. Mining from this coal block is likely to be exhausted after February 2022.
'Therefore, it is urgent to keep mining continued from this coal block and efforts for the same are being taken with utmost priority,' Gehlot wrote.
If the new mines are delayed and the existing mines run out of coal, tariffs in Rajasthan will rise further as utilities will be forced to source coal or power - or both - from outside at a much higher cost. This could have a negative political bearing as tariffs were recently raised by 33 paise per unit, making them one of the highest in the country.
According to Gehlot, the Parsa coal block has the potential to produce five million tonnes per annum of coal. Similarly, Kente Extension can give an additional nine million tonnes per annum.
The PEKB block was allocated to Rajasthan power utility in 2007. Parsa and Kante Extensions were allotted in 2015. The Chhattisgarh forest department has yet to give mining clearance for Parsa even after the Union environment and forests ministry according Stage-II forest clearance on October 21 last year.
The fate of Rajasthan's Rs 40,000-crore investments in power generation assets depends on coal production at these blocks.
Gehlot said approval to commence mining and handover of 1,136 hectares Phase-II forest land and three enumeration approval by the division forest officer of Sarguja are required for starting mining in the two blocks.
Currently, Rajasthan is largely dependent on state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) for imported fuel to generate electricity. Disruption in coal supplies from CIL coupled with a spike in imported coal prices had prompted RVUNL to secure fuel from its captive blocks.
Rajasthan has about 28,400 MW of installed electricity generation capacity.
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