NEW DELHI: After series of steps to expedite green clearances, Prime Minister’s Office now wants the environment ministry to further relax norms for forest clearances. Based on suggestions by central ministries, it has asked the ministry to look into delinking of compensatory afforestation with Stage II of forest clearance to further expedite project clearance processes.
The Project Monitoring Group (PMG) under the PMO suggested the ministry to improve the speed of decision-making in respect of forest clearances as there were large number of cases pending under all categories of clearances.
During the meeting held to review cases pending beyond timelines in the environment ministry, the representatives of Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and Ministry of Coal suggested some measures for expediting forest clearances.
These include that identification of land for compensatory afforestation can be done after grant of Stage II forest clearance on the lines of Forests Rights Act (FRA) certificate being delinked from Stage II forest clearance.
“The user agencies can be asked to deposit the compensation for land in advance and prior to stage II forest clearance. However, the clearance need not be held up for want of identification of such land,” suggested the PMG to ministry.
The guidelines issued under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 state that equivalent non-forest land identified in place of diverted forest land has to be transferred to the ownership of the State Forest Department and declared as reserved/protected forests. The transfer has to take place prior to the commencement of the project.
The proposal suggested by the ministries call for delinking the two and there will be no obligation on project proponent to get certificate from forest department of identified land for compensatory afforestation (CA).
“In any case, such lands are usually identified with the concurrence of Forest Department and hence the delinking of Stage II forest clearance and CA land can considerably improve the progress in several held up projects,” said the PMG, asking the ministry to examine these suggestions at an early date.
The PMG also raised issue of significantly large pendency ion some of the district and states and called for setting up an institutional mechanism within the ministry to constantly monitor and review the pendency and periodically remind all concerned officers in the states to dispose the pending applications.
The concerned administrative division in the ministry will send periodical reminders to the chief secretary, principal secretary of the state concerned with details of pendency with a copy of PMG.
The ministry has already sent a letter to all states to reduce the pendency and report back the progress.
“This would enable PMG to also place such details of details before the chief secretary in the forthcoming PMG meetings with the concerned state governments,” added the communiqué from the PMG.