n January this year, the Centre had banned the import of pet coke for trading purposes in NCR and said only registered industries that are end users could directly import it. But recently, through another notification, the Centre has relaxed these restrictions.
Industrial units can now engage a third-party to import pet coke on their behalf. In fact, the January list that allowed 323 lime kilns and cement plants to import pet coke has now been expanded to include 36 more industries located in Rajasthan. Carbide manufacturers in NCR have also been exempted since they use pet coke in manufacturing. Only those industries that used it as fuel can’t use it still.
The May 25 notification reasons that the environment ministry “received representations that even in case of permitted use, imports are not undertaken by user agencies and are usually sourced through import facilitators”. While the ministry has put some riders against misuse of these relaxations, environmentalists feel allowing third-party imports may make the transactions difficult to monitor. The ministry has said these importers would have to be registered with state pollution control boards, that their imports would be as per requirement of the industrial unit, and that they cannot sell it to another party. They would also have to submit a declaration to the Customs authorities that the pet coke is not for use as fuel.
The pollution control boards have been told to develop an electronic records system for tighter monitoring of use.
Pet coke has been a contentious issue with ministries disagreeing on their environmental impact. In the M C Mehta vs Union of India case in Supreme Court, the petroleum ministry had pointed out that even domestic production of pet coke was quite high, and if import was allowed then the domestic coke could be diverted to other industries without adequate pollution control measures.
Directorate general of foreign trade had said it could bring in a whole licensing regime for fuel inconsistent with WTO provisions.