Just a click away: Companies can now apply online for green nods

Written by Indronil Roychowdhury | Kolkata | Updated: Jun 12 2014, 19:42pm hrs
The ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) is going online for green clearances, paving way for major structural changes in its clearing mechanism.

According to a ministry memorandum available with FE, all applications for environment (EC) clearances and ToR (terms of reference) will be accepted only online from July 1 and the expert appraisal committee will have to complete the examining of a proposal within 5 to 15 working days. This would not only expedite the process of environmental clearances, putting project implementation on a fast track, but also ensure transparency in the entire mechanism, an MoEF official said.

The ministry has pushed for the plan in the wake of 419 large investment projects stuck for want of green clearances. While according to environment minister Prakash Javadekar, giving clearances to defence sector projects would be his ministrys priority, the prime ministers office has made clear that enabling speedy investment should also be the governments priority. The MoEF, as a matter of practice, accepted hard copies of EC and ToR applications with the clearance process comprising 4 stages --- screening, scoping, public consultation and appraisal.

Under the new structure, project proponents after applying online will have to circulate hard copies to the members concerned of the expert appraisal committee (EAC) before the meeting on the project takes place.

The department handling online applications will send an email slip to the project proponent, while also sending a copy of the application to the member secretary concerned of the EAC. The ToR and EC will have to examine within 5 to 15 working days and any additional information if needed will have to be sought from the project proponent within the time frame, the memorandum states.

Simultaneously, the system will ask the project proponent to submit a hard copy of the document along with an acknowledgement slip to the ministry within a week from the acceptance of the proposal. The project proponent would thereafter need to get the schedule of the EAC meeting from the MoEF website to find out whether his/her project is listed in the agenda of the meeting. If the proposal is listed the project proponent will have to circulate hard copies of the documents to the chairman and members of EAC before seven days of meeting date, an official said adding that this would keep the project proponent involved in the entire process of the clearance and keep him updated about the developments.

However, this structural change in the clearance mechanism comes after 8 years responding to the need of faster project implementation. After the MoEF restructured the clearance mechanism in 2006 it took a sector specific approach in preparing criteria for project clearance and identified 36 sectors. Although the new government is not opposed to the sectoral approach it wants to bring all the sectors within a single window for speedy clearance, the official said.