NEW DELHI: Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar often pats his ministry’s back for taking numerous measures to simplify green clearances and facilitate ease of business, but the number seems to be speaking otherwise as only 38 per cent key roads and highways and mining projects received the green clearance in the last two years.
According to data, between January 2015 and April 2016, the ministry received 1,007 projects seeking diversion of forest land, but only 386 projects got the final forest clearance.
The ministry received 598 road, transport and highways projects but only 37 (6 per cent) got final forest clearance, while 164 projects got in-principle approval. The ministry fared a little better with green clearances for mining.
Some of the pending key projects include widening of roads to six/eight lanes on the boundaries of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai at `2,995 crore, four-laning of Varanasi-Gorakhpur Section of NH 29 for `2,525 crore, Asian Highway near the India-Bangladesh border at `971 crore and a Border Road Organisation project in Manipur worth `93 crore.
The biggest casualty is Congress-led Uttarakhand, which alone had 304 projects, of which only two received final forest clearance while 70 were approved in-principle. The hill state was followed by Uttar Pradesh with 55 projects, Himachal Pradesh with 43, Haryana with 42, and Punjab and Rajasthan with 32 proposals each.
Not even single project was cleared in some States. Sixteen states—such as Chhattisgarh, Goa, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal—did not get final forest clearance for even a single project.
The NDA government has delegated powers to its regional offices to decide 90 per cent of projects.
The ministry, however, defends the position. “The decision on 364 (around 60 per cent) proposals is pending due to non-receipt of essential documents and information sought from the states and Union Territories,” said an official of the ministry. “Laws can’t be bypassed for quick clearances,” he said.