Even as the NDA government at the Centre is set to give the green nod to projects, worth Rs 80,000 crore, one of the last steps taken by the Narendra Modi government in the state was to set the ball rolling for around 3,000 projects that are awaiting environment clearance for almost a year now.
This means projects, including construction, industrial and mid-size mining projects, waiting for the green nod by the state, will soon get cleared.
After almost a year’s delay, the State-Level Expert Appraisal Authority (SEAA) and its sub committee, the State-Level Environment Impact Assessment Committee (SEIAC), came into existence only this month on the very day the Lok Sabha results were declared.
Notification for SEAA, which was defunct since July 2013, was finally issued on May 16 by then Narendra Modi government under the Environment Protection Act. The three-year tenure of the previous committee came to an end last July.
The Category B projects, which are small for the Union Environment Ministry to handle, are being addressed and scrutinized at the state level by SEIAC. Based on the advisory of SZEIAC, the SEAA gives the clearance.
“The new committee has been formed,” confirmed IAS (retd) P K Misra, while speaking to The Indian Express. Misra is heading the SEAA that has two other members.
The SEIAC has a total of nine members, headed by T P Singh, who is the director of Bhaskracharya Institute of Space Research and Geo-Informatics. SEIAC, which serves as an advisory committee to SEIAC, is responsible for clearing or rejecting B category projects that due to their small size do not require the Centre’s attention.
However, with no committee in place since July 2013, the small industries were at the receiving end in Gujarat, where industries are one of the major development drivers.
“An RTI application sent by us revealed that till December 2013, over 1,700 projects remain stalled. The figure has now crossed the 3,000 mark,” said Mahesh Pandya of Paryavaran Mirta, an NGO working in the Environment sector.
Most of the pending projects relates to building and constructions, factories and workshop in industrial estates and mining. According to reports, the Gujarat Government sent a proposal for formation of a third committee in November 2013, four months after the second committee’s tenure expired. Then, the Centre took a couple of months in formalities, before the state government issued the notification on May 16.
“We hope that the committee does not go for fast clearance in the backdrop of the huge backlog,” Pandya added.
Nonetheless, environment activists lauded the fact that this time, representatives from the law and academic sectors as well as NGOs have been included in the committee along with government officials, something that has taken place for the in a first time in the state.
The first committee was formed in 2007 and the second in 2010. The third, with representatives from diverse fields, has now been formed to asses the overall impact.
Meanwhile, the SEAA head said, “The backlog has been huge, and fast clearance is a priority, but only after thorough check.”