Time for re­form

In­dia needs to rein­vent the way it man­ages green clear­ances


ONMAY16, as In­dia was an­tic­i­pat­ing a new govern­ment the stock mar­ket hit a record high. The un­bri­dled op­ti­mism of in­dus­try that the bjp-led govern­ment will rev up the econ­omy is ap­par­ent. The As­so­ci­ated Cham­bers of Com­merce and In­dus­try of In­dia has al­ready pre­pared an agenda for the new govern­ment to achieve 10 per cent eco­nomic growth. Chan­dra­jit Ban­er­jee, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­try, in­di­cated in an ar­ti­cle that the govern­ment should re-start stalled projects.

In­dus­try lobby por­trays green clear­ances as im­ped­i­ments to growth.But facts wspeak other­wise. The govern­ment had planned to in­crease the coun­try’s ther­mal power ca­pac­ity by 78,700 MW dur­ing the 11th Five Year Plan that ended in 2012,but only 53,000 MW was in­stalled. This is when the Union Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Forests (moef ) cleared plants of 217,794 MW.The 12th Plan, end­ing 2017,prom­ises an­other 88,000 MW to cater to the fu­ture de­mand. While the tar­get can be met with­out fur­ther clear­ances, moef has cleared an additional 36,000 MW since April 2012.

Sim­i­lar is the case with coal. In­dia’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion of coal is 557.7 mil­lion tonnes per an­num (mtpa). By 2017,coal de­mand will rise to 980.50 MT, which can be met by re­al­is­ing the 589 mtpa po­ten­tial of mines cleared dur­ing the 11th Plan pe­riod. Yet moef has cleared additional 67 projects with ca­pac­ity of 216 mtpa since 2012.

The fact is very few projects get re­jected on en­vi­ron­men­tal grounds. In fact, projects are cleared with full knowl­edge that the govern­ment has lit­tle ca­pac­ity to mon­i­tor whether de­vel­op­ers are com­ply­ing with en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance con­di­tions. This al­lows de­vel­op­ers to pol­lute. Protests against such projects make clear­ances con­tentious. This af­fects in­dus­tries. Clearly, the cur­rent sys­tem is not work­ing. The new govern­ment must re­form and strengthen the en­vi­ron­ment man­age­ment sys­tem and green clear­ances to safe­guard people’s con­cerns.

1. Con­sol­i­date all green clear­ances, be it re­lated to en­vi­ron­ment, forests, wildlife or coastal zone, so that de­ci­sions can be taken un­der­stand­ing the over­all im­pact of projects. 2. In­stead of sev­eral reg­u­la­tors, set up an in­de­pen­dent body to grant all green clear­ances. The body should be given enough power and re­sources to do proper as­sess­ment and im­pose fines and sanc­tions. It must be trans­par­ent and ac­count­able and en­cour­age pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in green clear­ances.

3.State pol­lu­tion con­trol boards (spcbs), the coun­try’s largest en­vi­ron­ment reg­u­la­tors, mon­i­tor projects for com­pli­ance un­der en­vi­ron­men­tal laws. moef should utilise the re­sources of spcbs to mon­i­tor com­pli­ance with clear­ance con­di­tions.

4.The govern­ment must pro­vide re­sources, build ca­pac­ity and re­form in­sti­tu­tions for bet­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion of reg­u­la­tions.It must ur­gently strengthen spcbs as they are the reg­u­la­tors on the ground.

5.All in­for­ma­tion re­lated to green clear­ances should be put in the pub­lic do­main.The process of pub­lic hear­ings must be strength­ened and made more trans­par­ent.

It’s a myth that en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ances are im­ped­ing growth

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