Veerappa Moily can fast-track Rs 45,000 cr of stuck projects

Written by Subhash Narayan | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 25 2013, 06:20am hrs
MoilyThe environment ministry under M Veerappa Moily would focus on the immediate first and important later (Reuters)
The environment ministry under M Veerappa Moily would focus on the immediate first and important later. What this strategy means that Moily, who took additional charge of the ministry on Tuesday, would first look at according clearances to those projects that have got all other regulatory approvals but are stuck at his table.

Under this approach, projects worth around Rs 45,000 crore would get immediate clearance. Official sources said that the amount could be higher as there are several smaller projects too that require only the ministrys nod. Many projects are being shuttled between the ministry and developers over minor, procedural and documentation issues. Officials said these can be fast-tracked if timelines are fixed.

While taking charge of his office on Tuesday at Paryavaran Bhavan, which houses the environment ministry, Moily himself gave a hint of the new approach when he said that he would not leave any file pending even for a day. In my process of governance, there will be no pending files and I will not carry any files to my residence. Our overarching principle is of regulating and nothing should be left to discretion. I am accustomed to disposal of files by the evening. There will be no compromise on the green image, he said.

The immediate beneficiaries would promoters of big-ticket infrastructure projects like the Mahan coal block jointly developed by Essar and Hindalco, the 520 MW Teesta hydroelectric power project (stage-4) and the 800 MW Tawang hydroelectric project of NHPC, which were held up by Moilys predecessor Jayanthi Natarajan.

All these projects have been cleared by various committees of the ministry or in some cases, even the highest decision-making bodies like the empowered group of ministers and are at the last stage of the green clearance process.

Some showpiece projects like the R50,000-crore steel project in Orissa by South Korean major Posco may take some time as the revalidation of its earlier resettlement and rehabilitation approval is yet to be completed by the National Green Tribunal. The company, meanwhile has also sought help from the Prime Ministers Project Monitoring Group, which facilitates clearances by coordinating with various bodies concerned. Once the NGT approval comes, Posco should also happen fast as the company is already in the process of completing the land acquisition process, said an official.

The 1,200 MW Mahan project that was supposed to be fed from the Mahan coal block, which got blocked in the go, no-go classification in the latter part of 2011, was finally given the stage-I environmental clearance in February 2012. The project now needs the stage-II clearance, which the environment ministry needs to accord.

Similar is the case with NHPCs 800 MW Tawang II project, which got stage-I green clearance from the forest advisory committee in February. In the absence of a formal letter from the environment ministry endorsing the clearance, the project remains stuck. Sources said that the file for the final clearance has been with the office of the environment minister since April 18.

Likewise, Tata Powers 500 MW thermal power plant in Maharashtra and another 1,980 MW project in Jharkhand, besides SAILs mining proposal in Durg, Chhattisgarh, among others, are still awaiting final environment clearance by the environment ministry.

The Chhatrasal coal block, which is associated with Reliance Powers Sasan UMPP, got a go-ahead from an empowered group of ministers last year but the project developers have still not heard from the ministry on the status of the final clearance.

There are around 600 projects, including ArcelorMittals iron ore and manganese mining project in Jharkhand and the Sagar Super Thermal project of Universal Crescent in West Bengal, that require the environment ministrys nod.