Meghalaya: Coal Inventory Discrepancy Resolved as State Government Clarifies with Drone Survey

Drone surveys unveil accurate assessments, challenging initial figures and highlighting the complex coal auction dynamics.
Meghalaya: Coal Inventory Discrepancy Resolved as State Government Clarifies with Drone Survey

SHILLONG: In the northeastern state of Meghalaya, the accuracy of coal inventory figures has become a focal point of contention. The state government asserts that no coal has gone missing, disputing the initial assessment of approximately 32 lakh metric tons (MT) of coal in 2019. A subsequent drone survey, undertaken to address discrepancies, revealed a significantly reduced total of approximately 14.1 lakh MT for the year 2022.

Official records indicate that following a ban on coal by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014, the physically verified inventory by deputy commissioners in 2019 stood at 32 lakh MT. To enhance accuracy, a drone survey was commissioned, with automated software assessing and calculating the quantity, pinpointing an availability of 14.1 lakhs MT.

Before the drone survey, the state government had seized around 4.72 lakh MT of coal. Furthermore, in the fiscal year 2021-2022, 1.5 lakh MT of coal was auctioned. Post-drone survey re-verification, an additional 3.8 lakh MT was sold in March 2023, and another 5.9 lakh MT was slated for auction in November 2023.

A key development is the endorsement of the drone survey's accuracy by a single-member committee appointed by the Meghalaya High Court. The committee recognizes the drone survey report as more than 90 percent accurate, emphasizing its reliability in evaluating the coal inventory.

An official source notes that the remaining coal for auction by the end of 2023 is approximately 4.4 lakh MT. Accounting for a 36.12 percent difference above the initially assessed 32 lakh MT in 2019, the revised calculation suggests that 20.4 lakh MT should have been available. Auctions, including the pre-drone re-verification sale of 1.5 lakh MT, the post-drone survey auction of 9.7 lakh MT, and the upcoming 4.4 lakh MT, sum up to 20.32 lakh MT. This, according to the state government, reaffirms that no coal has gone missing when considering the quantity available as per the drone survey.

Sources further highlight the court's guidance to rely on the drone survey due to a foreseen 30 percent difference between physical verification and drone assessment. Additionally, challenges such as mismatched coordinates, attributed to the region's remoteness affecting network connectivity, were acknowledged.


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Sentinel Assam