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Increase in Coal Production in India 

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∙ The coal production in the country has shot up to over 664 million tonnes during the financial year 2023-24.

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∙ It is a robust 12.29 percent increase over the corresponding figure of over 591 million tonnes for the same period of the previous year.

∙ The government aims to further increase production to reach 1 billion million tonnes by 2030.

∙ This increase ensures a consistent and robust coal supply to meet the energy needs of the power sector, highlighting the effectiveness of the coal supply chain.

Current Status of Coal Reserve

∙ India has rich deposits of coal in the world. Total estimated reserves of coal as on 01-04-2022 were 361.41 billion tonnes.

∙ The top three states with highest coal reserves in India total coal reserves in the country.

∙ India is the second largest producer and consumer of coal globally after China, surpassing the USA in 2022.

Reasons for High Production

∙ Reliance on coal for electricity generation: Coal-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) generated 74.3% of India’s electricity during FY 2022-2023.

∙ Industrial demand: Industries like steel and cement heavily rely on coal as a fuel source.

∙ Limited domestic alternatives: Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are still not developed enough to fully replace coal.

∙ Only 10.4% of the 36.44 exajoules of India’s primary energy consumption in 2022 are from renewables (hydroelectric, solar, and wind); coal and oil gas account for 55.1% and 33.3%, respectively.

Arguments in favour of India’s continued reliance of coal

∙ India’s cumulative emissions from fossil fuels like coal between the start of the industrial revolution in 1750 and the end of 2021 are only 3.3% of the global total, far behind those of Europe (31%), the U.S. (24.3%), and China (14.4%).

∙ Fulfilling the development needs of 17% of the world’s population, which lives in India, is also a fundamental duty to which must be attended, failing which ‘sustainable development’ will simply be an empty catchphrase.

∙ Ninety-six percent of the coal used by TPPs in India comes from domestic mines and is key to why electricity is so affordable in India.

Challenges and Concerns

∙ Environmental impact: Coal mining and burning contribute significantly to air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and water contamination.

∙ Coal deposits in India generally contain high levels of ash (35-50%). Burning coal with more ash leads to pollution.

∙ Coal-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) are responsible for nearly 70% of India’s greenhouse gas emissions.

∙ Health impacts: Air pollution from coal combustion has severe health consequences like respiratory illnesses.

∙ Climate change: Continued dependence on coal hinders India’s progress towards carbon neutrality goals and commitments.

∙ Social impacts: Coal mining affects communities near mines, raising concerns about displacement, livelihood loss, and environmental degradation.

Way Ahead

∙ For India’s long-term goal of reaching net-zero by 2070, the country must continue to implement clean coal technologies to reduce the power sector’s emissions.

∙ India must focus on increasing the efficiency of its TPPs(Thermal Power Plants) to reduce emissions while ramping up nuclear, solar and wind energy into the grid.

∙ Coal production is expected to continue increasing in the near future. However, the long-term outlook for coal remains uncertain, with growing emphasis on clean energy transition and climate change mitigation.∙ Diversifying energy sources, adopting cleaner technologies, and addressing social and environmental concerns are crucial for India’s sustainable energy future.

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