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Union Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily, who has been given additional chargeof the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), said on Sunday that there shouldn’t be any inexplicable delay in granting environmental clearances.
Asked how he would deal with the issue of delayed environmental clearances stalling many important projects, some of which have been kept hanging for over a year, Moily told The Indian Expresss, “There are no two ways about it. As Environment and Forest Minister, my job is to protect our environment and forests. Protection of environment is sacrosanct. But the India growth story can’t also be put on hold. Rahul Gandhi has also spoken against slow decision-making and the need to fix accountability and take decisions in a time-bound manner. The decision-making process can’t be suffocated.”
He added, “The way forward, as I see it, is to decide all cases in a time-bound manner. If a project can’t be cleared due to environmental issues, say so in a time-bound manner rather than sitting on the file for 15-20 months.”
Moily was given additional charge of the MoEF after Jayanthi Natarajan resigned on Saturday, a move that is being seen as an attempt by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress leadership to redress repeated complaints from corporate houses and various ministries about long, unexplained delays in environmental clearances holding up many projects.
“Officers are the same everywhere. If the decision-making is clean and no mala fide is involved, even controversial decisions can be taken. The rules of the game have to be clear and can’t be arbitrary. But growth can’t be held to ransom by anybody. That is certain and I intend to follow this principle completely,” said Moily.
Denying the possibility of any conflict of interest while holding charge of the two important ministries, Moily said, “As Petroleum Minister, I am doing a job, and I will continue to do so in the MoEF too. Where is the conflict? Am I going to give environment clearance to projects of my family? All ministers and officers are bound by rules and regulation. Can clearance be given against the rules? By this logic, no minister should be given additional charge of the environment ministry because almost every ministry has a stake in the decisions of the environment ministry.”
The petroleum ministry and the environment ministry have often been at loggerheads over the latter’s tendency to hold up requests