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Jairam agrees to go soft on infra projects

delhi Updated: Feb 17, 2011 22:16 IST

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Softening his stance, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday assured the Group of Ministers that he will be "positive" towards infrastructure projects and soon lift the moratorium on 25 areas, a development that will help projects stranded on green concerns.

"I have assured them that from our Ministry's side, we will adopt a positive attitude...," Ramesh told reporters after the GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, held its first meeting to iron out the inter-ministerial differences on environment related issues.

Ramesh, who of late has relaxed green norms for big ticket projects like Posco and Lavasa, said his Ministry had already lifted the moratorium on 13 areas, categorised as 'critically polluted' under the Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI). He said technical teams from the Central Pollution Control Board are in the field.

"I hope that we will be able to lift the moratorium by end of March as we had originally anticipated," he said, adding that CEPI was not a coal pollution index, but a comprehensive emission measurement tool.

Ramesh, who had earlier taken a tough stand to enforce forest and environment protection laws, said he did not intend to "stop the projects."

However, it is also true that there is a decline in the forest cover in the country, "which needs to be checked," he said.

The 12 member GoM comprising, among others, Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, Power minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Steel minister Beni Prasad Verma and Road Transport minister CP Joshi, met in the backdrop of various controversies, mainly over "go" and "no go" areas in coal mines.

In the midst of the inter ministerial rows, mostly with the Environment ministry, Mukherjee has asked Ramesh to respond to issues raised by the Coal ministry by March 15.

The meeting remained inconclusive and the ministers are likely to meet again in the middle of March for bridging their differences.

"All the issues like no go coal blocks, coal imports etc were discussed. We will meet again sometime in the second week of March on the issue," Coal minister Jaiswal said after the meeting. He exuded confidence that most of the issues will be resolved.

The 'no-go' classification by the Environment Ministry in 2009 had disallowed mining in 203 blocks with the potential of producing 660 million tonnes of coal a year. According to Coal ministry estimates, the output from these blocks could have been used to generate around 1.3 lakh MW of power per annum.