| NEW DELHI, June 12
NEW DELHI, June 12 India's new government said
it would speed up work on three railway lines key to
transporting 100 million tonnes of coal per year from remote
mines, a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wants to
supply continuous power to all.
Coal India Ltd, the world's No. 1 coal miner that
controls about 80 percent of India's output, says better
connections could push its annual production up by as much as
300 million tonnes from 462 million now.
Work on some of the railway lines started nearly a decade
ago but delays with land acquisition, environmental clearance
and complex relations between regional and central government
have hampered their progress.
The result is higher imports and shortage of coal used in
power generation, leading to frequent blackouts including in the
capital city of Delhi. India is the third-largest coal importer
despite sitting on the fifth-largest reserves.
To discuss how to sort out the issues, Railway Minister D.V.
Sadananda Gowda and Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal agreed
on Thursday to work closely, and fast-track construction of 286
km of railway lines under three projects in the coal-bearing
states of Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
"(The) Railway Minister gave instructions for better
coordination among various stake holders and all concerned
officers were given instructions to comply with timelines for
construction of these lines," a government statement said.
The timeframe for completion of lines was not known but Coal
India Chairman S Narsing Rao earlier told Reuters that
state-owned Indian Railways had promised some of the stretches
would be ready by 2016.
An Indian Railways spokesman could not be contacted outside
regular business hours.
The statement said senior government officials could visit
Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh next week to "sort out the pending
issues of land acquisition and forest and environment".
Modi, whose landslide election victory came largely on his
promise to rejuvenate India's economy after years of slowdown,
wants to provide round-the-clock power supply to the population
of about 1.2 billion. Millions still go without power.
As coal is the main source of power generation, Modi wants
to reform the nationalised coal sector by bringing in private
investment and possibly breaking up Coal India.
Without a meaningful jump in domestic output, India's coal
shortage could range between 185 million tonnes and 265 million
by 2016/17, according to projections from the previous
government. Shipments rose 21 percent to 152 million tonnes in
the calendar year 2013, data from research firm OreTeam showed.
India was estimated to have spent $14 billion on coal
imports in the fiscal year ended March 2013, and that figure is
likely to rise to $25 billion by 2016/17, according to the
Boston Consulting Group.
Indonesia, Australia and South Africa are the main suppliers
(Editing by Mark Potter)