PMO Puts Green Go-Ahead on Fast Track for Industry
NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is playing wish-fulfilling genie to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). In an effort to improve the business climate in the country, the PMO accepted a wish list of 60 proposals which would help streamline clearances for industry from CII and 30 of them have already been put into effect by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The whole process is being driven by top PMO officials, who have been coordinating with the industry and environment ministries by conducting regular meetings to keep themselves updated.
The list prepared by CII included simplification of cumbersome processes and difficult mechanism for environment, forest, wildlife and coastal zone regulation clearances. The MoEF in an Action Taken Report (ATR) submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat on Friday listed 30 of 60 decisions it has taken already, which include online submission of project proposals for clearances, delegating more powers to states, delinking of forest and environment clearance for transmission lines, easing norms for highways projects and general approvals for strategic and border road projects.
About 20 big-ticket projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore have already been cleared by the environment ministry in a record three months. These projects were mainly from the coal and power sectors and put on mission mode by the Modi government. Green clearances were cited as the biggest impediment to development by industry during UPA’s regime. The NDA government in the last four months has made sure that projects are not unnecessarily held up for want of green signals.
Key projects include the Rs 45,345 crore Jindal Steel and Power Limited’s plant to enhance the steel-making capacity at its Raigarh plant in Chhattisgarh and the Rs 10,000 crore Manoharpur Open Cast Coal, a mine project of Odisha Power Generation Corp Ltd.
Justifying the measures taken, a top MoEF official said the streamlining of processes was needed to avoid unnecessary delay, which lead to huge cost escalation and non-viability of projects.
“In this era of technology we do not even have forest baseline database that can help a project proponent to know about the forest cover, protected areas, eco-sensitive zones and other things in the area where a project is being planned. The Forest Survey of India has now been tasked to come out with a GIS-based database,” the official said.
Other steps taken by MoEF include advising members of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) not to put conditions which are beyond the control of user agency and required state government to formulate a policy or change of policy. The ministry has set up a high-level committee under former Cabinet Secretariat TSR Subramaniam to review existing environment and forest-related laws.
The industry also raised the issues of vagueness in clearance processes that leads to confusion and delay. Now, the MoEF has issued a clear categorization of environment clearance conditions for different phases of implementation ranging from pre-construction, construction, post construction and life of project. A decision has also been taken to bring clarity on Corporate Social Responsibility-related issues while considering projects for environment clearances. Environment activists and legal experts feel some proposals made by industry can get them in legal trouble as they go against Supreme Court rulings.
“Some of the proposals are good but things like not taking consent of tribal people for transfer of their land to industry will invite legal hurdles,” said environment lawyer Raj Panjwani, who is head of National Green Tribunal Bar Association.