Green nod pendency dips as CCI fires up environment ministry

Written by Kirtika Suneja | Updated: Feb 28 2014, 08:08am hrs
CCIDecision-making at the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) quickened after January 2013... (AP)
Decision-making at the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) quickened after January 2013, when a freshly-formed Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) started inducing vigour to the process, reports Kirtika Suneja in New Delhi. This drastically reduced the pendency of projects awaiting crucial environment clearances (ECs) from 130 at end-2012 to 92 at end-2013, and further to six as on February 27, 2014. In cases where forest clearances (FCs) are required, the EC comes after FC has already been granted which means the work at project sites would normally commence once the developer/investor receives the EC.

This augurs well for the economy which has grown at just 4.6% in the first half of this fiscal and is seen expanding at 4.8% or less in the full year. With projects worth 5% of the GDP having been cleared by the CCI and the Prime Ministers project monitoring group since their inception, the economy is expected to receive an impetus from the new projects being cleared, although many analysts believe it could take a while before the results become visible, since these are mostly projects with a gestation lag.

Of course, the reduction in number of projects waiting for ECs can't be solely attributed to the ECs being granted as in a number of cases, the projects have been taken off the ministry's pendency list either because their terms of reference had expired or because of the failure on the part of the applicant to furnish the requisite details on time.

Also, there are many cases where violation of prescribed norms has been noticed and states have been asked to take action. In many cases, information pending from the states for long periods and such projects many not be considered as pending, by the ministry.

Significantly, former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan who faced allegations of tardy decision-making from the industry, granted 473 ECs in 2012 and another 386 in 2013. She had taken over from her predecessor Jairam Ramesh in July 2011.

The present environment minister Veerappa Moily, who took over on December 23, 2013, has issued 35 ECs since then, but has been able to reduce pendency even faster than Natarajan, with the number coming down from 91 at end-December to six now.

Moily had said at Indian Express group's Idea Exchange programme on January 11 that by then, he had cleared more than 65 files and 75% of the files related to projects given a push by the CCI.

Among the projects which have recently secured EC are the 1,600 MW Ennore SEZ super-critical imported coal-based thermal power plant in Tamil Nadu, Chennai Petroleum Corporation's crude oil pipeline and Hinduja National Power Corporation's 1,040 MW thermal power project in Vishakhapatnam.

In addition, coal mining projects such as Rohne open cast mine in Jharkhand, Ukni Deep in Maharashtra, Chhinda open cast mine in Madhya Pradesh and expansion of Gevra open cast project in Chhattisgarh too have of late secured ECs. We have cleared more than 80% of the projects related to the CCI. Besides, delays on projects of government companies have been reduced, said an environment ministry official.

NHPC's 520 MW Teesta-IV hydro-electric power project in Sikkim was granted EC on January 9, a day after the Tawang hydro-electric project in Arunachal Pradesh secured FC from the Moily-led MoEF while the revalidation of the lapsed EC of the $12.6 billion Posco steel plant in Odisha, the biggest foreign direct investment in India was given on January 7.