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Green ministry out to help industry

delhi Updated: May 28, 2012 02:37 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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The environment ministry is on an industrial overdrive, with rules being changed for faster clearance of projects at the cost of the environment.

While the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife will lose its power to examine projects in tiger and elephant corridors, a sectoral forest advisory committee will be allowed to decide on diversion of forest land and projects even in dense forests. These are some of the changes that the environment ministry has brought in to dispel its image of being a roadblock to industrial development, and ensure easier approval for industries.

The ministry has silently excluded projects coming up in tiger and elephants corridors from the purview of the standing committee, which has not met for almost six months reportedly because the non-official members are refusing to adhere to the government line.

“The views of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Project Elephant are taken before deciding on projects in these areas,” said a ministry official, explaining that the standing committee causes a lot of delay while deciding these projects.

The ministry is also likely to agree to a suggestion of a Group of Ministers headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to set up several forest advisory committees for speeding up the project approval rate. The GoM had wanted the FAC to work on the lines of about 10 sectoral-level Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC).

The move is, however, being opposed by non-official members of FAC who believe that it will dilute the mandate of the single FAC, constituted under the Forest Conservation Act, to ensure the protection of forests. The law provides for one advisory body, whose recommendations are not binding on the government.

The environment ministry is expected to inform the GoM on Wednesday that it will approve two key mining projects in dense forests — Chhatrasal and Mahan — with strict environmental conditions. It is also expected to inform the GoM regarding its proposed inviolate areas for mining in dense forests.