The Narendra Modi government would augment the administrative support to expert committees on environment, ensure that approvals take virtually no time once due diligence is done and attempt to converge the process of environmental and forest clearances (ECs and FCs), environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Thursday.
Speaking at the Express Group’s Idea Exchange programme, Javadekar said wherever required, the powers to grant clearances would be devolved to the local authorities to avoid a backlog of applications at the national level. The entire process for environmental clearance — application, scrutiny and grant of approval — would be facilitated online from July 1 and that for forest clearances from August 1, the minister said, adding that this would allow monitoring of whether timelines are adhered to at every stage.
Indicating that all projects for which the due diligence has already been completed would soon be cleared, the minister said top priority would be given to defence and other state-sector projects and national highways. Amending the relevant laws with a view to removing hassles of investors were also on the agenda, the minister said, adding discussions for review of the laws had just begun.
Asked whether the processes for environmental and forest clearances could be streamlined for faster decision-making, the minister said, “The processes can be simultaneous... At one point, they can converge.”
“Why can’t these (EC and FC) be given on the same day?” the minister asked.
The minister said he was in dialogue with the coal, mines and steel ministers for fast-tracking the environmental clearances of stalled projects. “We (he and the power, mines and steel ministries) will have a meeting on Monday. We will review the pending projects,” he said.
Already, the environment ministry has given clearance to the township project for the naval base in Karwar, which was stuck for three years, the minister said, illustrating how decision-making had been expedited. Efforts, he said, were on to fast-track clearances for about 6,000 km of roads near the Indo-China border and allow the setting up of coast guard ‘chowkies’.
The roads and defence ministries have been asked to sort out issues that were coming in the way of building roads and bridges over defence land, he said. FE had reported earlier that the defence and road ministries have coordinated to facilitate speedy transfer of certain land parcels currently with the three armed forces to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) so that a host of