Sending a message to the business community that the NDA government was serious about removing “bottlenecks” to economic growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked environment minister Prakash Javadekar to clear half of the stuck projects in the next month.
Projects worth Rs. 1,00,000 crore are awaiting approval of the new minister as no projects were approved since March 5 when the model code of conduct came into force. The new minister for environment, forest and climate change Javadekar is getting ready to clear these projects.
The projects range from mining for Steel Authority of India (SAIL) and Lafarge’s mining projects in dense forest of Chhattisgarh, expansion of a mining project in fragile Western Ghats to Jindal Steel and Power’s limited’s in Maoist affected Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.
The minister is also expected to consider projects on thermal power in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha along with some hydro power projects in the north-east. While many of these projects are in dense forest or rich ecological areas, they are not embroiled in any legal issues or caught in any controversy paving their way for clearance.
“We have been asked to enlist the projects which are not highly contentious,” a government official said, hinting that they would be given priority in the approvals.
The ministry is also working on ‘streamlining’ the environment clearance process which could translate into automatic approval for expansion of existing infrastructure projects like roads and rail. “No approval will be required if the road or rail project is getting expanded in its right of the way,” an official said.
Ministry officials are also keen to remove moratorium on adding new industries in some of the most polluted industrial areas such as Vapi and Ankleshwar in Gujarat. The restrictions in allowing high growth projects in dense forest areas would be reviewed by Javadekar next week, sources said.
The proposals may not go down well with green activists who feel the environment ministry was working at cross purpose by pushing economic agenda of the government at the cost of sacrificing country’s ecological wealth.