As India faces severe dry weather conditions, it has been compelled to increase its consumption of coal as a source of power.
The fear of a potential blackout grows more substantial as the demand for power surges, particularly during scorching summer days. Consequently, India is ramping up its coal imports to ensure the consistent functioning of power plants and to prevent power outages.
Though the country is relying heavily on hydroelectric power to meet its growing energy needs, a reduction of 12 per cent in the monsoon rains has impacted the output of these power plants.
As a result, the burden of power generation has shifted to coal-fired power plants leading to an increase in demand for coal.
India, the world's second-largest coal consumer, is now expected to elevate its coal imports.
According to experts, the country's coal imports, which already sit at 247 million tonnes for a financial year, may reach new heights this year given the present circumstances.
In addition, India's Coal Minister, Pralhad Joshi, has been advocating for increased coal production to deal with the situation at hand.
However, this increased coal consumption comes with consequences. India has made a global commitment to mitigate climate change and is expected to reduce its carbon emissions. The higher consumption of coal poses a critical challenge to this.
Concerns are being raised about the possible adverse environmental impacts of the increased coal usage.
Environmentalists warn that already low emission and efficiency standards could hit rock bottom. Several Indian cities are already part of the world's dirtiest, with poor air quality levels, and this situation may worsen with the amplified coal burning.
On the one hand, the country is trying to accommodate the demand for power generation to prevent the nation's blackout; it is also having to mitigate the environmental impact of such actions.
As the aftermath of the coal crisis unfolds, India will need to strike a balance between the power demands of its economic sectors and its commitments to environmental conservation.