The government is set to take further steps to streamline the process of giving green nods to infrastructure projects.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has asked the ministry of environment and forests to examine whether evaluation by the environment appraisal committee (EAC) could be exempted for projects meeting certain benchmarks to be created by the ministry for environment clearance (EC). This is expected to reduce the time for obtaining EC for these projects from a minimum of 100 days or so now (in several cases, the clearances get delayed for years) to 60 days.
The benchmarking for the proposed waiver from EAC, according to the PMO's directive, would be in terms of a set of activities that need to be completed for EC, a source said, refusing to elaborate. The waiver would mean that the ministry can consider giving ECs to these projects directly, without seeking EAC opinion.
“Proposals of companies scoring higher marks than the specified benchmark can be directly sent to the ministry of environment and forests for EC while those with lower marks could be referred to EAC for appropriate recommendation,” a source said.
The process change would mainly benefit power and coal mining projects that face delays over EC. According to an estimate, close to 30,000 MW of power capacity is stranded due to delays in getting the green nod. Environment minister Prakash Javadekar has said the effort of the government would be to give ECs within 60 days.
In addition to this, the streamlining process for EC would also look into issues such as requirement of repetitive studies on water supply, ash disposal and water table insisted upon by the EAC while granting terms of reference (ToR) for EC.
The environment ministry is also likely to ease rules for expansion projects in mining operations. Power projects proposing expansion units within existing boundaries and those proposing 50% capacity expansion outside the boundary may be exempted from public hearing.
In addition, grant of EC to thermal power projects may be delinked from FC stage-I for linked coal blocks on the lines of UMPPs.