With there being nearly 450 projects pending with it for clearance, almost half of them pertaining to infrastructure, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has constituted an additional green panel to fast-track infrastructure works across various sectors in the country.
After the newly-constituted panel, there will now be two expert appraisal committees of the MoEF to assess infrastructure projects across various sectors such as roads, solid waste management, ports, airports, building construction, and works in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
Ashok Lavasa, secretary, environment and forests, said, “We have constituted a second committee for infrastructure and CRZ projects mainly to deal with the large number of applications. At any point of time, there are at least 400-450 projects pending with the MoEF for processing at different levels, and about 40-50 percent of them are related to infrastructure.”
The existing expert appraisal committee has been meeting once every month, with every meeting running into three days, and has been considering 40-60 projects every meeting.
“The existing committee is already dealing with a lot of projects. It is not possible for committee members to meet and clear applications more often than they already are. So, a second panel was necessary. We have split the various infrastructure sectors between the two committees,” Lavasa said.
Accordingly, the second expert appraisal committee for infrastructure and CRZ will appraise all applications related to airports, ship breaking yards, hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities, ports, aerial ropeways, common effluence treatment plants, municipal solid waste management.
This committee will also look at building and construction projects, townships and area development proposals.
The MoEF has mandated the committee, formed for three years, to meet every month and ordinarily complete appraisal of projects in a single meeting unless the information put before the committee by the project authority is found to be incomplete.
Professor T Haque, director and chief executive of the Council for Social Development, will chair the 12-member committee.
The panel will also comprise an economics professor, a representative of the Central Building Research Institute, the Indian Meteorological Department, a member from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and an urban planner, among others.
The existing committee, also comprising 12 members, will mostly focus on transport-infrastructure projects across various states and the National Highways Authority of India besides a few other sectors.
All project proposals are first screened by an impact assessment division, before placing them before the committees for appraisal.
The committees are then expected to hear the proposals, conduct site visits wherever necessary, and either recommend them or reject them for environment clearance giving reasons. The committees also recommend environment impact mitigation measures.