1,800 projects await forest clearance, MoEF blames states

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 20 2011, 08:07am hrs
With more than 1,800 projects awaiting forest clearance in the country, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has cited non-submission of essential information and documents by the respective state governments for the delay.

While Punjab and Haryana lead the pack with the former waiting for the forest nod for 516 projects while the latter is waiting for 453 projects to be cleared, heavily forested states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have fewer projects pending the clearance.

Interestingly, almost 350 pending projects relate to laying of gas pipelines, resorts and paper industry while more than 250 projects of the 1,877 pending cases are related to roads. Another major chunk comprised transmission lines and hydel projects.

"In most of the cases, time taken by the state governments to process the proposals seeking prior approval for diversion of forest land for non-forest purpose is more than the time line stipulated in the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2003, said environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan in Parliament.

Due to non-submission of essential information by the state governments, the Centre has to ask for the required documents resulting in delay in the decision.

The ministry says that of the 365 projects it received for forest clearance in the last three years, it has disposed 262 and rest are pending at different stages in states.

"Many applications are pending at the level of the divisional forest officer (DFO). In fact, state governments don't even submit proper applications. What states do is not our responsibility but it is marked in our performance of delaying clearances, said a senior ministry official on condition of anonymity.

This assumes significance in the wake of the fact that the planning commission has warned that delayed forest clearance for captive mines could adversely impact development and financing of a large number of power projects. Further, interestingly, in a related report to the Prime Minister, Planning Commission member (Energy) BK Chaturvedi has recommended simultaneous processing for environment and forest clearance to avoid delays.

Other forested states like Andhra Pradesh have only 31 projects awaiting the nod while Karnataka has 24, Maharashtra 42 and Uttar Pradesh 53.

The ministry has cleared 1.05 million hectare of forest area in the last five years compared with 4.5 million hectare previously cleared in a span of 10 years before the Forest Conservation Act came into force.