New Delhi: An expert panel of the Union environment ministry has recommended approvals for projects worth Rs.20,500 crore in the aviation and port sectors.
Based on these recommendations, a final decision will be taken by the ministry.
The important projects that have been recommended for environment and coastal zone regulation clearance include expansion of the Visakhapatnam port and Adani’s Dahej port, construction of a new oil berth at Jawahar Dweep Island managed by Mumbai Port Trust and expansion of the Naini Saini airport in Uttarakhand, according to the minutes of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for Infrastructure meeting held on 28-29 March.
The EAC also cleared the so-called terms of reference (ToRs) to develop an international airport at Bhogapuram (Andhra Pradesh), a commercial airport at Mundra (Gujarat) by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, a new port at Vadhavan (Maharashtra), a heliport in Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh) extension of runway at Rajahmundry airport (Andhra Pradesh), upgradation of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji international airport, expansion of Krishnapatnam Port at Nellore (Andhra Pradesh) and development of integrated facilities at Kandla Port (Gujarat). ToRs are guidelines specified for conducting environmental impact studies of projects based on which the ministry grants or rejects environment clearance to a project.
According to the minutes of the EAC meeting, the guidelines cleared for the projects were so-called standard ToRs with additional conditions.
The environment ministry introduced standard ToRs in April 2015 to speed up the process of conducting green impact studies. Now, ToRs are issued within 30 days, unlike during the previous United Progressive Alliance government, when it used to take up to two years (Mint story: bit.ly/1SdMtRl ).
“Standard ToRs have cut down delay for industry. We are also ensuring that apart from standard ToRs additional conditions are added as and when required in specific cases to protect the environment,” said a senior environment ministry official, who did not wish to be identified.
However, experts point to the absence of a proper monitoring mechanism for clearing projects. “The environment ministry, as early as February 2014, asked all state governments to develop institutions to monitor projects that get green clearance. But even as projects are cleared with conditions, there exists no robust mechanism to monitor them,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, an environmental advocate in the Supreme Court and managing partner of the Enviro Legal Defence Firm, an environmental law firm that also takes up training, education, publishing and outreach work.