A mere 3 per cent projects have been
rejected. This completely nullifies industry’s contention that
environmental norms are being used to hold back industrial projects,"
says Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general.
Against the norms: Clearing the Refused
A desperate rush on the part of the
ministry to grant clearances is not just evident from granting of
clearances to fresh proposals, but also from diluting clauses of various
laws of India to clear
projects that have earlier been denied a clearance. While granting these
clearances, the CSE team finds that the MoEF has overlooked gross
violations of the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act. These
violations had been duly noted by the ministry’s Forest Advisory
Committee (FAC), which decides on the clearances.
In Hasdeo-Arand Coalfield in Gujarat,
1,988 hectare (ha) of forest land has recently been cleared for
diversion in favour of Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Limited;
the proposal had been rejected by the Committee in June 2010 on the
grounds of it being in a no-go area.
In another controversial decision, the
Committee approved the diversion of about 1,000 ha of forest land in
Raigad Forest Division of Maharashtra. The decision involves a drinking
water supply project on the Kalu River proposed by the Konkan Irrigation
Development Corporation. The project was rejected during a FAC meeting
held in April 2012, on various grounds including initiation of
construction work on forest land in violation of the Forest Conservation
Act, location of project within seven kilometres from a wildlife
sanctuary and ecologically sensitive areas of the Western Ghats, etc.
“Such decisions of foregoing the
consideration of cumulative impact of projects in the face of pressure
from Central and state authorities is becoming more of a trend, rather
than being cases in isolation,” points out Chandra Bhushan.
FAC: Exercises in inadequacy
The question also is how proactive FAC is
regarding the scrutiny of projects or how much time does the Committee
devote to discuss clearances.
A review of the minutes of the meetings of
the Committee over the past six months suggests that at most instances,
there is a maximum of only 50 to 60 per cent representation of members.
“The question thus arises is whether such under-participation creates
further inadequacy in the thorough scrutiny of proposals placed before
the Committee. Is the Committee serious about the responsibilities it
has been entrusted with? These questions need to be urgently addressed
by the ministry,” says Chandra Bhushan of CSE.