There is no need for a ‘super clearing agency’ such as the National Investment Board (NIB) proposed by the Finance Minister, as green clearances have not been holding up industrial projects, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Picking holes in the Finance Minister’s argument that there was “inordinate delay in getting statutory clearances” for large infrastructure projects, Sunita Narain, Director-General, CSE, released a study that showed that the scale of clearances during the 11th Plan (April 2007-March 2012) was almost “unprecedented”.
A total of 8,374 projects got forest clearances during the Plan, which included 119 coal mining projects, the highest during any Plan period since 1981.
The total forest land diverted during this period was 25 per cent, of which 34 per cent was for mining and power projects alone, according to the CSE’s assessment. As regards environmental nod, 184 coal mining projects with production capacity of 589 million tonnes a year, 276 thermal power plants with 2.2 lakh MW capacity, 203 steel plants and 112 cement plants were cleared.
“It is clear that the problem is not clearances, but the fact that a bulk of this capacity remains unutilised,” said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy DG.
Indicating a new kind of licence scam to take over natural resources, land and water, he said, “What needs to be looked into is why the Ministry is giving so many clearances and why the projects already cleared are not being implemented?”