Online platform for green clearances

Written by Raj Kumar Ray | Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 5 2014, 22:16pm hrs
In a move to fast-track the process of granting green clearances, the government will digitise the environment and forest clearances (EC and FC) both at the central and state levels. The new system will help companies file their applications online, track the status and get clearances within the stipulated time period.

While there will be no policy change, the new system will make environment clearances transparent and faster besides reducing hassles, an official familiar with the development told FE.

The online facility, being developed by state-owned National Informatics Centre (NIC) after detailed deliberation between the Planning Commission, cabinet secretariat, environment ministry and industry chambers such as CII and FICCI, will be unveiled soon.

Delays in green clearances has alone held back more than 120 projects worth investment over Rs 4 lakh crore. The Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) along with the project monitoring group (PMG) under the cabinet secretariat has facilitated clearance of 16 projects worth Rs 1.59 lakh crore since in the first two months of this year after Veerappa Moily took charge of environment ministry.

Some of the major projects that got green nods include Posco's steel plant in Odisha and NHPC's Tawang -II hydroelectric project and Gujarat Pipavav Port for capacity expansion, among others. Projects which are waiting for EC include JK Lakshmi Cement's proposed grinding unit in Odisha.

We were thinking of making the applications online as this will reduce the burden on proponents and the officials who appraise the projects, said a senior official of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).

Incidentally, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra already have similar online application process and the Punjab Pollution Control Board too has rolled out an online consent management and monitoring system to enable applicants to fill the forms online after which the approval is processed electronically.

The move is in line with the environment ministry's strategy of fast-tracking the clearance process and is significant as all category-A developmental projects are given green clearance by the MoEF and category-B projects are considered by the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority.

The category-A projects, which are in the industrial, thermal power, coal mining, non-coal mining, river valley, infrastructure and construction sectors, are appraised by MoEFs sector-specific expert appraisal committees.