The latest in a series of changes in the environmental clearance norms, the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests has announced that thermal projects cannot get an expansion proposal approved until they have started implementing the first phase.

In a circular issued earlier this week, the Ministry noted that a number of thermal power projects have been seeking terms of reference for further expansion when they have not even received clearance for the first phase or immediately after getting approval.

According to the new norms, if clearance has not been granted for the first phase, the project proponent must apply afresh, submitting a comprehensive proposal clubbing all phases together, so that the entire project's environmental impact can be considered holistically.

The changes in the clearance norms, aimed at improving speed and transparency in the process, come in the wake of allegations that the Ministry is delaying project approvals.

Earlier this week, the Ministry had also announced that the terms of reference for environment impact assessment reports would only be valid for two years, and that such reports must be prepared by accredited consultants.

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