Energy policy: India relies even more on coal


Status: 01.11.2021 2:32 p.m.

India cannot get rid of coal: In order to meet the steadily increasing energy demand, the government approves the development of ever new mines. The consequences for people and the environment are significant.

By Sabina Matthay, ARD Studio New Delhi

After the blast in the Balram opencast mine in the Indian state of Odisha, a huge cloud of dust spreads over the area and leaves observers gasping for breath even at a safe distance of 700 meters. Balram is one of nine opencast mines in the Talcher coal field, which is owned by the state-owned Coal India group. More than six million tons of coal were mined here in 2020, with an annual target of 15 million.

Sabina Matthay
ARD Studio New Delhi

The deposits lasted for another 25 to 30 years, says an engineer who heads coal production in the Balram open-cast mine. Demolition teams are out and about here several times a day. Entire hilltops have already disappeared to get to the coal seams. A gigantic crater has been created since 2017. Huge excavators clear the lumps of coal.

Huge deposits that have not yet been developed

India is sitting on immense coal reserves, the country is having a hard time getting rid of the climate-damaging fuel. Very few people are impressed by the environmental degradation that goes hand in hand with the extraction and consumption of coal and that contributes to climate change.

India’s coal-fired power plants generate two thirds of the electricity. The dirt throwers are profitable because of favorable purchase contracts with long terms. As part of the Corona reconstruction program, the government has just decided to open 40 new coal mines. Many jobs already depend on the coal.

Tens of thousands live from raw materials

The Talcher coal field is the lifeline of tens of thousands, says the trade unionist Sudarsan Mohanti. Here, 21,000 people are directly employed by the state coal company and 15,000 by subcontractors.

Coal India offers its own employees, whether engineers or unskilled workers, accommodation, health insurance and schools for the children. Mohantis estimates that at least 50,000 other jobs depend on the opencast mines – suppliers, craftsmen, truck drivers, railroad workers.

Power consumption is growing rapidly

India’s use of climate-friendly energy sources has increased significantly since 2014, but electricity consumption in the emerging country is increasing, and solar and wind power are nowhere near meeting the demand. Power from coal therefore remains the most important component of the Indian energy supply, says the engineer at the Balram opencast mine: “Renewable energies do not guarantee a constant supply of energy, because the weather conditions are constantly changing, which is why an energy mix is ​​necessary.” So climate-damaging coal has a future in India. The country is far from a real energy transition.

India and coal power

Sabina Matthay, ARD New Delhi, November 1st, 2021 12:08 pm


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