As the new government looks to speed up project implementation, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said top priority will be given to granting environmental clearance to projects in defence and public sector stuck for want of green nod.
Asserting that the Narendra Modi government will try to strike a balance between development and environment protection, Javadekar noted that a large number of proposed projects pertaining to defence sector, airports and border roads had remained on paper for want of environment and forest clearance.
"The government will accord top priority to granting environmental clearance to projects in defence and public sector," Javadekar told reporters.
"There is no contradiction between the concepts of development and environment protection," he added.
Javadekar had earlier said that the government believes in "environment and development, and not environment versus development".
While a green nod for all pending projects may not be possible soon, the Environment ministry is reported to have short-listed 20-odd proposals which have crossed hurdles of appraisal committee and can get the clearance as early as this month.
The Environment ministry is also reported to have started consultations with ministries like Coal, Power, Mining and Steel to give a push to pending projects that run into tens of thousands of crores.
To a question on the controversial Lavasa lake city project near Pune, Javadekar said the government was not handling private individual company projects on priority basis and would follow a "transparent process" for the green nod.
Javadekar said he would also hold a meeting with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to pave the way for pending projects in the state.
Though the ministry is keen to ensure speedy environment clearance, Javadekar had on the day he took over made it clear that there would be no compromise on environmental protection and due diligence.
The ministry on May 29 launched a new system for online submission of applications for environment clearance. The new user-friendly system, launched by the minister, is expected to bring transparency in the contentious issue of environmental clearance.
It will allow the applicants as well as the clearance authorities to keep a tab on the entire process while adhering to the timeline of various clearances rejections. The ministry is expected to launch a similar online system for 'forest clearance' this month.