After Posco and Tawang, environment minister M Veerappa Moily has cleared the state-owned NHPC’s 520 MW Teesta-IV hydro-electric project in Sikkim, thus having approved three big projects in three days, which were stuck despite having clearances from all other statutory and related bodies.
Veerappa Moily, who approved the Teesta project on January 9, said at the Express Group’s Idea Exchange programme on Friday that the environment would be protected at all cost but he would not carry any bias against industry or disturb the functioning of any panel. Speaking about the projects cleared by him, he said these projects had been approved by all other bodies that vet them and were just awaiting his clearance.
“We cleared more than 65 files after December 23 and 75% of the files related to Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) have been cleared. Tawang is the first project to be cleared in Arunachal Pradesh as against 33 projects cleared in China. I pick up from legacy and will go on doing a policeman’s job strictly. I will not be prejudiced against anyone and nothing would be done against the existing panels,” Veerappa Moily said.
The Teesta project has been languishing since March 2006 when a memorandum of understanding was signed between NHPC and the Sikkim government. It had witnessed two unsuccessful public hearings in July 2011 and March in 2012.as the locals boycotted them. The proposal for environmental clearance (EC) was discussed by the environment appraisal committee (EAC) in September 2012, November 2012 and February 2013 and was subsequently recommended for clearance by the EAC but the final EC letter was awaited.
Among other projects that have secured EC since Veerappa Moily took over from Jayanthi Natarajan on December 24, the major ones are the 1,600 MW Ennore SEZ super-critical imported coal-based thermal power plant in Tamil Nadu, Chennai Petroleum’s crude oil pipeline, and Hinduja National Power’s 1,040 MW thermal power project in Visakhapatnam.
In addition, coal mining projects such as the Rohne open-cast mine in Jharkhand, Ukni Deep in Maharashtra, Chhinda open-cast mine in Madhya Pradesh and the expansion of the Gevra open-cast project in Chhattisgarh are likely to secure ECs in the next one week.
“Environment has to be guarded at every cost. We will not compromise on any law and take the quickest decision possible,” Veerappa Moily added.
He said that his ministry has already begun work on the environment regulator that has to be put in