The Cabinet Committee on Investment that was set up after Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan objected to the National Investment Board over-ruling her ministry has not been slow in clearing projects. Comparative figures for earlier periods are hard to obtain, since the Ministry usually provides data in terms of the number of projects cleared, rather than their value. But Ms. Natarajan told the Rajya Sabha last month that 209 projects were given environment clearances between July 2011 and 2012, with no indication of how much these projects were worth.
However, in the briefing note prepared for the CCI, after summarising eight major steps taken “to cut short the time and to avoid complexities” in the clearance process, the Ministry provided the estimated monetary value of the projects it had granted environment clearances to over the last two months.
The revised proposal approved by Cabinet said the CCI, chaired by the Prime Minister and including administrative Ministries, would only prescribe time limits for clearance decisions and facilitate the removal of bottlenecks and delays.
Apart from efforts to expedite linear projects, the eight measures listed in a briefing note by Environment Ministry’s include the decision to exempt certain categories — such as coal mines seeking 25 per cent expansion and individual SEZ units — from holding mandatory public hearings.
The briefing note also mentions future measures that MoEF is considering to expedite clearances. The Ministry is examining the recommendations of the committee headed by Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan to review green norms related to building, roads, SEZ projects and high-rise buildings. It has also been proposed to set up one more expert appraisal committee for mining projects, presumably to ease any bottlenecks in the sector.