The Ministry of Coal, Govt. of India has decided to establish a ‘Sustainable Development Cell’ in order to promote environmentally sustainable coal mining in the country and address environmental concerns during the decommissioning or closure of mines.
This move gains significance as the new private entities are now going to form a significant part of the future, a set of guidelines for proper rehabilitation of mines need to be evolved in tune with global best practices.
Role of Sustainable Development Cell
The Sustainable Development cell (SDC) will advise, mentor , plan and monitor the mitigation measures taken by the coal companies for maximising the utilisation of available resources in a sustainable way, minimising the adverse impact of mining and mitigating it for further ecosystem services and will act as nodal point at Ministry of Coal level in this matter. This cell will also formulate the future policy framework for the environmental mitigation measures including the Mine closure Fund.
Tasks of the Cell
The SDC will adopt a systemic approach, starting from collection of data, analysis of data, presentation of information, planning based on information; by domain experts, adoption of best practices, consultations, innovative thinking, site-specific approaches, knowledge sharing and dissemination and finally end with an aim to ease the lives of people and communities in general. All of the above will be done by executing following tasks on a planned way:
Land amelioration and afforestation
- In India approximately 2,550 sq Km areas is under different coal mines and there are also plans to bring more areas under it. These land masses required both extensive and intensive amelioration measures and will be carried out as per following procedure:
- Collection of all the baseline data/maps related to different coal mines like total mines/ block areas, OB dumps areas, water filled voids, reclaimed areas, unutilized areas, plantations etc., from various Coal companies. All the data/maps will be collated and analysed on a GIS based platform and different thematic information and maps will be prepared. These will be updated at regular intervals. All GIS based activities will be carried out with active participation of CMPDIL.
- To help Coal companies to identify areas where plantation projects could be taken up immediately, along with identification of various species of plants, suitable for specific regions to create large carbon sinks for climate change management.
- To Identify the activities to be taken up for creation of additional land suitable for plantation, stabilization of slope, soil treatment, creation of levelled land, de-watering etc., as per time line under MCP.
- It also checks the possibility and plan for productive reuse of these lands for rehabilitation, integrated modern township, agriculture, horticulture, FCA compensatory land, renewable energy farms etc.
Air quality, emission and noise management
- To advice coal companies for effective implementation of environmental mitigation measures (water sprinkling, dust suppression methods, noise barriers etc.) related to air and noise pollution generated due mine activities, heavy earth moving machines (HEMMs), transport of coal etc.
- It also works towards energy efficiency in the mining operation, noise and emission reduction in case of HEMMs.
- Analysis of Environment Management Plans (EMP) of different companies and will advise coal companies to making it more effective.
Mine water management
- Collection of data regarding present quantity, quality, surface runoff, drainage of mine water, future availability of water collected in UG or OC coal mines etc., and to analyse it on a GIS based platform to prepare model Coal Mine Water Management Plans (CMWMP).
- The plan will suggest ways and also have innovative planning to storage, treatment and re-use of such water for drinking, irrigation, fisheries, tourism, industrial or any other sustainable purpose.
Sustainable Overburden Management
- The cell will also check feasibility and suggest measures to reuse, recycle and rehabilitation of over burdened dumps in a sustainable manner.
- Will examine and plan out use of overburdened material for use in different infrastructure projects, earthen bunds etc.
Sustainable Mine Tourism
- To explore and conceptualise a plan for the beautification & creation of eco parks in the reclaimed areas and which will also include water bodies etc., for re-creation activities and tourism purpose.
- It will also explore tourism potential and plan it out in few underground mines.
Planning and Monitoring
- Analysis of Mine Closure Plans (MCP)of different companies and advise to make it more effective.
- To help Coal companies to finalize time- line for execution of different mitigation activities / projects in all mines in phased manner.
- It Will also monitor effective utilization of Mine Closure Fund and Environment Budgets of Different Coal Companies.
- To formulate future guidelines for the mine closure plan, mine closure fund etc.
Policy, Research, Education, and Dissemination
- Will hire experts/ institutions/ organisations to conduct specific studies for establishing a robust knowledge base.
- Will organise consultative meetings, workshops, field visits, exposure study tours etc., to enrich the knowledge base, known best global and ideas for environmental mitigation planning and monitoring.
- Will conduct regular workshop and seminar for the company level officials to educate them in new methods, technologies, approaches and also global practices.
Thus the Sustainable Development Cell envisages to address the environment mitigation measures in a systemic manner and to provide a better environment to people working and residing in the vicinity of Mines.