Sujay Mehdudia

NEW DELHI: Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Monday that he was ready to reduce the timeframe for environmental clearance of various projects, but wanted wider public consultations beforehand.

“My Ministry has already put everything in the public domain. You need not come to my Ministry to get an update on the status of the projects and the reasons for delay. It is all loaded on the website…,” he told the Rajya Sabha during question hour.

He said 210 days were given for completing all formalities for environmental clearance. Separately, 150 days were taken for giving forest clearance once projects were cleared by State governments. The 210-day deadline for environmental clearance was extended for some projects involving wildlife sanctuary and environment fragile zone, and for complicated projects requiring adequate safeguards.

Mr. Jairam said 700 environment clearances were pending when he took over in May-end. This came down to 250. But taking into account new applications, 500 projects were pending with his Ministry for environmental clearance. Of the 210-day deadline, 60 days were for drawing up terms of reference for environment impact assessment, 45 days for public hearing, 60 days for environment impact appraisal and 45 days for communicating the decision.

He said the 60 days taken by his Ministry might be reduced to 45 days. “I may be able to reduce the time taken for environmental clearance to 195 days from 210 days. But forest clearance is not within my domain. It comes from State governments, and only then do we act. The delay is at the State level, and not in our Ministry,” Mr. Ramesh said.