Blamed frequently for delaying green clearances to key infrastructure projects,the MoEF has come up with new and more realistic timelines that can be met,giving more time to both states and the Centre to process projects that require forest clearance.
The new timelines,suggested under draft Forest Conservation (Amendment) Rules 2013,propose to extend the current 150 days time limit for disposing a forest clearance proposal to a maximum of 300 days,for projects involving forest land diversion of over 100 hectares.
The new rules also propose varying and tiered timelines for projects depending on the requirement of forest land so a project involving only diversion of 5 hectare forest land will be processed faster than one involving over 100 hectare of forest land. The MoEF has proposed detailed and tiered timeline fixing deadlines at each official level from the state to the Centre including provision for a transit period.
The Forest Conservation Rules 2003,that are currently in effect,prescribe a blanket rule that asks state governments to duly examine and recommend to the Centre fresh forest clearance proposals within 90 days (3 months) of the receipt of the proposal from the user agency and for the Centre to reject/approve it within 60 days. This process drags on for two years or more in certain cases.
The idea is to make the system work without affecting the quality of project appraisal. The fact is that current timelines are far too unrealistic and therefore hardly adhered to. Also,uniform timelines currently in effect do not really work as project appraisal depends on the forest land involved. Hence a tiered system is proposed, sources in the MoEF said.
The draft rules also clearly say that in case a state government exceeds the stipulated timeline,it will have to give a valid explanation for the delay along with details of action taken against the individual held responsible for the delay.