With Covid-19 destroying economies across the globe, governments are desperate to find ways to revive essential cash flows. So Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, recently auctioned 41 coal mines to private companies in hopes of improving their current economic slump. Though hundreds of thousands of jobs are expected, Modi’s actions raise multiple concerns.
Even pre-pandemic, coal demands have been steadily decreasing since renewable energy has posed a more sustainable and cost-effective method. A lot of people are now questioning how beneficial restarting an overtly detrimental industry actually is.
Covid-19’s impact on the coal mine industry
Since Covid-19 locked down India on March 25, they’ve seen a 30% decrease in CO2 emissions. And instead of relying on traditional and unsustainable power-grids, India experienced a large shift towards sustainable energy.
In fact, 300 sunny days with India’s solar energy at about 5000 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, will exceed the energy created of all the current fossil fuel reserves.
But even from a financial standpoint, many analysts found non-renewable energy is less cost-effective. For example, the cost of using coal is 4.5 rupees compared to clean energy’s 2.5 rupees.
And now that many Indian citizens are working from home, they’ve found that more reliable energy comes from sustainable generators than fossil-fuel power-grids. Especially when a large number of Indian households—over 200 million people—don’t have access to power, the efficiency and cost perspective play an even bigger role.
Now with the decline of coal usage, many analysts have agreed that India should move towards renewable energy. So it’s evident that Modi’s recent coal mine relaunch was not what people were expecting.
An attempt to revive the coal mines industry
As previously mentioned, Modi believes launching 41 coal mines will provide jobs by extracting and transporting coal; which would, in theory, jumpstart their national economy.
“16 districts had ‘huge stocks of coal’ but people had not been able to benefit from this mineral wealth,” Modi said.
However, this seems to be a desperate attempt at reviving the coal industry. Leefa provided an analysis showing renewable energy from 2019 to 2020 delivered 9.39 gigawatts(GW) in comparison to coal power plants delivering only 4.3 GW.
There has been clear evidence that India has begun moving from coal and the demand is clearly dying down. So not only will the newly mined coal be useless, but it also has further environmental drawbacks.
Environmental concerns of coal mines
Many of the new coal mines will be located in forests that are homes to various indigenous groups and animals. For example, Hasdeo Arand, one of the largest stretches of forest, sustains life for elephants and the Gond indigenous group. Furthermore, the Chakla mining block has around 55% forest cover and provides essential drainage for the Damdor and Bakri rivers.
After examining all of the facts, it really brings to question Modi’s actions. India was actually moving towards a sustainable future. But with this decision, what might’ve been an opportunity to take move forward, instead brought them a few steps back.
Jalen Xing is a Writer at theRising and the co-founder of Students For Hospitals. You can pitch him stories at jalen.xing [at] gmail [dot] com.