August 4, 2015 1:22:14 am
With no environment clearance committee meetings for over two months earlier this year, nearly 350 residential and infrastructure projects are awaiting approval in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The meetings had stopped after Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam issued a directive that files of all projects on the agenda should be sent to his office first.
With Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar approaching Chief Minister Fadnavis to resolve the issue, the meetings resumed in the first week of July. To make up for the lost time, environment department officials are now forced to meet every alternate week to appraise projects.
Even after holding meetings in the first and third weeks of July, there are 350 projects still pending before the State Expert Appraisal Committee 2 (SEAC 2).
According to officials, the latest State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) meeting held from July 27 to 30 appraised 73 projects, but around 280 projects are still pending. The SEIAA committee is likely to meet two more times this month — August 10-13 and August 27-30.
Besides, there are 160-180 projects that are awaiting environmental clearance from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority.
“We are holding two to three meetings of the committee in a month now. The projects are all likely to be appraised only by the end of September,” said an official from the environment department who did not wish to be named.
There are three SEACs that scrutinise projects and recommend them for an environment clearance. The first one deals with industrial and mining projects across the state, the second looks at residential and infrastructure projects in the MMR and the third appraises such projects for the rest of the state. These committees then send the projects to the SEIAA for environment clearance.
In April this year, Kadam verbally directed his department that all meetings of the SEACs and the SEIAA be stayed as he wanted all project files to go through his office. Later, he issued similar orders in writing in a letter dated May 26.
Projects in the MMR have already suffered grave delays as the committee had remained defunct for nearly a year till April 2015, after the previous committee’s term expired and a new one was not constituted.
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