The Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) seems to be helping to raze green speed-bumps — ruffling the feathers of environment and tribal activists in the process — with environment clearances having been issued for more than Rs. 45,000 crore worth of projects in its first two months of existence.

In the next few months, the CCI expects to spur revisions in clearance provisions for high-rises, SEZs and roads, and form a new panel to appraise applicants from the mining sector.

Slew of measures

Since it was set up by the Union Cabinet last December, the CCI has successfully prodded the Ministry of Environment and Forests to implement a slew of measures aimed at streamlining clearance procedures. Those include such controversial moves as the delinking of environment and forest clearances for linear projects like roads, railways and transmission lines, and the exemption of such projects from getting gram sabha consent, which face vociferous opposition from forest and tribal rights activists.

Addressing top industrialists on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh credited the CCI for helping to “revive the investment climate,” allocating fifteen sentences of his speech to listing the measures taken to fast-track green clearances. “I am encouraged by the progress that we have made in the last three months by the work of this committee,” he said.

Concrete backing

The financial figures provide a concrete backing for his satisfaction. According to a briefing note prepared in March by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to apprise the CCI of its streamlining efforts, the result has been that “During January-February, 2013, development projects worth over Rs. 45,229 crore were given Environment Clearance by MoEF.”