With Teesta, Veerappa Moily clears 65 projects in just two weeks

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 11 2014, 23:40pm hrs
MoilyThe Teesta project has been languishing since March 2006 when a memorandum of understanding was signed between NHPC and the Sikkim government
After Posco and Tawang, environment minister M Veerappa Moily has cleared the state-owned NHPCs 520 MW Teesta-IV hydro-electric project in Sikkim, thus having approved three big projects in three days, which were stuck despite having clearances from all other statutory and related bodies.

Veerappa Moily, who approved the Teesta project on January 9, said at the Express Groups Idea Exchange programme on Friday that the environment would be protected at all cost but he would not carry any bias against industry or disturb the functioning of any panel. Speaking about the projects cleared by him, he said these projects had been approved by all other bodies that vet them and were just awaiting his clearance.

We cleared more than 65 files after December 23 and 75% of the files related to Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) have been cleared. Tawang is the first project to be cleared in Arunachal Pradesh as against 33 projects cleared in China. I pick up from legacy and will go on doing a policemans job strictly. I will not be prejudiced against anyone and nothing would be done against the existing panels, Veerappa Moily said.

The Teesta project has been languishing since March 2006 when a memorandum of understanding was signed between NHPC and the Sikkim government. It had witnessed two unsuccessful public hearings in July 2011 and March in 2012.as the locals boycotted them. The proposal for environmental clearance (EC) was discussed by the environment appraisal committee (EAC) in September 2012, November 2012 and February 2013 and was subsequently recommended for clearance by the EAC but the final EC letter was awaited.

Among other projects that have secured EC since Veerappa Moily took over from Jayanthi Natarajan on December 24, the major ones are the 1,600 MW Ennore SEZ super-critical imported coal-based thermal power plant in Tamil Nadu, Chennai Petroleums crude oil pipeline, and Hinduja National Powers 1,040 MW thermal power project in Visakhapatnam.

In addition, coal mining projects such as the Rohne open-cast mine in Jharkhand, Ukni Deep in Maharashtra, Chhinda open-cast mine in Madhya Pradesh and the expansion of the Gevra open-cast project in Chhattisgarh are likely to secure ECs in the next one week.

Environment has to be guarded at every cost. We will not compromise on any law and take the quickest decision possible, Veerappa Moily added.

He said that his ministry has already begun work on the environment regulator that has to be put in place by March 31, as per the Supreme Courts order.

We are already brainstorming on the regulator. An overarching regulator is a must and it is not meant for delays. However, it is a difficult process because we already have committees for monitoring and appraisal of projects. We dont want duplication. We may merge or fine-tune certain committees as the regulator is meant to resolve problems. Even the forest policy asks for such a regulator, he added.

On the fact that the ministry of environment and forests may seek more time to set up the regulator, the minister said: We dont believe in getting more time and always go prepared. I take a decision as soon as a file comes to me. I get into the process not sink in it.

Veerappa Moily said that he is in the process of writing letters to the chief ministers of the six southern states that are affected by the contradictory reports of two MoEF panels on allowing industrial activity in the Western Ghats.

The Madhav Gadgil-led panel had recommended banning mining in 60% of hill areas falling in the six states over the next five years and not permitting any new mines in another 15% of the Western Ghats area, which is a globally recognised biodiversity-rich zone. Following this, the MoEF had set up another panel under K Kasturirangan, which recommended prohibition on development activities in 37% of the natural landscape that has high biological richness.

The Kasturirangan panel was constituted to examine the detailed Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report prepared under Gadgils leadership.