Hurt by lack of transparency in environment clearance process, the Central Information Commission has directed the Environment ministry to place entire information about project clearances on its website by April.
The environment ministry has a webpage for displaying the minutes of the Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC) constituted for different sectors to examine projects. The page could be accessed mostly during office hours as National Information Centre has not provided 24 into 7 server facility.
However, information related to public hearing, inspection reports of the committee, special studied done to gauge environment impact and monitoring reports submitted once the project is cleared are not placed in public domain.
The information logjam may end as the order of information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi would puts the onus on the ministry to reduce burden of Right To Information applications by placing more information suo motto in public domain.
”The RTI Act envisions that all citizens should receive information by suo motto disclosures as prescribed under section (4) of the Act…disclosure is crucial to ensure transparency and accountability in institutions,” Gandhi said in his order.
Giving direction under section 19 of the RTI Act, the CIC asked Public Information Officer Sanchita Jindal to submit a compliance report by April 10. Jindal has assured the commission that access to the data will be available around the clock within three months.
The CIC has asked the ministry to provide five types of additional information on its website. It includes application of the project proponent, additional information submitted to EAC, reports commissioned by EAC from independent agencies, monitoring reports and information related to regional offices of the ministry.
The commission has also asked the ministry to direct the State Pollution Control Boards to display similar information on their websites.
The directions were issued on a complaint filed by Greater Kailash Shibani Ghosh, who found vital information related to project clearance missing from the ministry’s website. They also made concrete suggestions on how to improve transparency in project clearance process which was discussed with Jindal and other ministry officials and an agreement was reached.