Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Veerappa Moily, who took charge as the Environment and Forests Minister late last month, on Sunday said he had cleared projects to the tune of Rs. 1.5 lakh crore since he took over the additional charge of the Environment Ministry on December 24.

Among the key projects that saw being given the green nod included the South Koeran steel giant Posco’s $12 billion steel plant project in Orissa. Mr. Moily, who took over the additional portfolio last month from Jayanti Natarajan, said he had drawn up plans to clear the backlog before end of the month. "I have already cleared projects worth Rs. 1.5 lakh crore since taking over,’’ he told reporters here.

The Posco project was approved on January 7, Vedanta's Niyamgiri project has been rejected because if opposition to it by the majority of village bodies. Posco got environmental clearance to build Rs. 52,000-crore steel plant in Odisha, ending eight years of wait for a project that would involve the largest ever foreign direct investment in India. The clearance is conditional to Posco spending on social commitments, which will raise the project cost by $600 million to $12.6 billion.

The approval came after the steel plant was delinked from the port project. The nod will pave the way for Posco to build a steel plant with an annual capacity of 12 million tonnes. In Vedanta's case, the Environment Ministry had refused the next stage forest clearance to OMC (Odisha Mining Corporation) and Sterlite's (Vedanta group firm) mining project in Niyamgiri Hills area in Lanjigarh, Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, accepting the Forest Advisory Committee's (FAC) recommendation for withdrawal of the clearance.

Mr. Moily said he has cleared more then 70-80 projects and the remaining will be approved before month-end. "I believe that no approval, after following the due process of law, should be kept pending for even a day,’’ he said.

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