To find a solution to wrangling between ministries over slow pace of environment clearances, the Central government has constituted a Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee to look into all aspects of environment clearance process.
The Cabinet Secretariat has said the ambit of the GoM will not be restricted to only coal projects as stated earlier but will cover all the infrastructure projects, which are getting delayed due to delay in environment clearances.
The ministries of coal, power and road transport had accused Ramesh of causing delay to key infrastructure projects on environmental grounds. They have already registered a strong complaint against Ramesh at a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week. The PM has decided to constitute a committee headed by BK Chaturvedi, member of the Planning Commission to look into environmental delay regarding coal linkages for power projects.
The environment ministry had imposed a go-no go policy for coal mining resulting in no new project getting clearance in the last one year, key power projects have been stuck as coal linkages have not been cleared and several road highway projects passing through wildlife sanctuaries are also on hold.
The GoM, which will have Coal minister Shriprakash Jaiswal, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Deputy chairperson of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia as members.
A senior government official said that the GoM would recommend a new framework for speeding environment and forest clearances for key infrastructure projects without much damage the environment. “The effort will be made to ensure that statutory period to give clearances is met,” an official said. All ministries have been asked to submit their proposals for consideration of the GoM.
The GoM will also look into ways to ensure compensatory afforestation and environmental rehabilitation by the industry. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has already proposed that instead of the industry the approval should be taken by a government agency. For instance, in case of a coal mine, the Coal ministry should take environmental clearances instead of the project proponent, the existing practice.
Coal Minister Jaiswal expected the GoM to submit its recommendations to the government within a month of its first meeting, the date for which is yet to be decided.
GoM would recommend a new framework for speeding environment and forest clearances for key infrastructure projects without much damage the environment
It will also look into ways to ensure compensatory afforestation and environmental rehabilitation by the industry
All ministries have been asked to submit their proposals for consideration of the GoM.