What is the new single-window clearance for coal, and how will it help?

The Union government on Monday (January 11) announced a new online single window clearance portal for the coal sector to speed up the operationalisation of coal mines. The announcement was made alongside the signing ceremony for the first tranche of coal blocks to be auctioned for commercial use.

What is a single-window clearance portal?

A single window clearance portal is aimed at allowing successful bidders for coal blocks to be able to obtain all required clearances, including environmental and forest clearances, from a single portal with progress monitoring, instead of having to go to multiple authorities.

The portal should allow successful bidders to operationalise coal mines more quickly.

“Presently, about 19 major approvals, or clearances are required before starting the coal mine in the country. In the absence of unified platform for grant of clearances companies were required to approach different departments, leading to delay in operationalization of the coal mines,” Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said, adding that the portal would be operationalised in a phased manner.

How will this help?

Industry sources said that the sector has long sought a single window clearance system to help with quicker operationalisation, as obtaining the requisite clearances was taking over 2-3 years for successful bidders in many cases.

“It is definitely a good move as coal blocks which were auctioned off in earlier tranches used to take more than a 2-3 year period to get operationalised,” said an expert.

The expert added that some coal blocks auctioned as far back as 2015 has still not been operationalised due to delays in obtaining required clearances.

The expert noted that the Parivesh mechanism for forest and environment related clearances would likely be merged into the single window clearance mechanism which is expected to help with the operationalization of the coals blocks that are set to be auctioned in the upcoming auctions.