Teesta, Tawang, Posco, Ennore SEZ, Chennai Petroleum, Hinduja National Power Corporation … given there are around 60 more such names, listing the names of projects cleared by new environment minister Veerappa Moily since he took over on December 23 is not possible. But suffice it to say, the sums involved are huge – Posco itself adds up to an investment of around $13 billion and has been waiting for close to a decade. Indeed, as Moily pointed out in an Idea Exchange with the Express Group, he has cleared 95% of the oil projects given out in the oil sector under the last NELP bidding round—imagine that, oil companies had bid for, and won, projects that they could not begin work on since one arm or the other of the government was sitting on them. If it wasn’t the environment ministry that was blocking projects, it was the space department, or the defence ministry. Project by project, various ministries have been brought to the table and asked to list out their objections and these have been addressed. In the case of Cairn India’s Palar basin field where the space department had a problem since it fell within its rocket range, ISRO was persuaded to shift its operations by 7 km, giving the company enough space for exploration.
What’s worse, as Moily said, none of the clearances given by him amounted to him changing any noting on files—the projects had been cleared by the plethora of panels set up in the ministry, they just needed the minister’s signature. And keep in mind, in several cases, the panels just created obstructions—in the famous case of Posco, one of the infirmities listed by the panel was the project’s failure to rehabilitate tribals while, it was later admitted, the site was not the natural habitat of tribals. If the projects could have been cleared earlier, the UPA has to wonder why they were held up for so long. One thing is clear, though, that had the same energy been displayed a year ago, UPA-3 would have had a much better shot at coming to power than it does today.