New Delhi: Fifty-six proposals under Forest Conservation Act and 11 projects under Environment Impact Assessment Notification for roads and public utility sectors were granted clearance in hilly states during the last one year, government today said.
Presently, 55 projects for forest clearance and one project for environment clearance are pending in these states including Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern States.
"56 proposals under Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 and 11 projects under Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006 for roads and public utility sectors were granted clearances during the last one year in states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern States," Minister of State for Environment Prakash Javadekar told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.
"As on date, 55 projects for forest clearance and one project for environment clearance are pending from these states," he said.
He said his ministry was aware of the importance of developmental works in critical and sensitive border areas and accordingly it has taken steps to "simplify and expedite" the process of granting clearances.
Elaborating on the measures, the minister said under the Forest Conservation Act 1980, grant of general approval for construction and widening of two lane roads and by BRO in area falling within 100 kms aerial distance from LAC, while similar has been done for widening of roads by BRO as link roads between border roads in the area within 100 Kms of LAC has been given.
The ministry has given relaxation to strategic projects in border areas being taken up in the area falling within 100 kms aerial distance from LAC to raise and maintain compensatory afforestation over an equivalent degraded forest land instead of double the degraded forest land apart from constitution of working group to review forest, wildlife and environment clearances.
He said general approval has also been given to 13 categories of public utility projects including construction of bridges, involving forest land not more than 1 ha and felling of not more than 50 trees.
Replying to another question, Javadekar said that since June 1, 2011 to May 31, 2014, the Ministry of Environment and Forest has granted approval for diversion of 87252 ha of forest land for non forestry purposes involving 3,772 proposals of various categories like roads, railway, defence, hydro, wind and thermal power amongst others.
He said that the central government with a view to boost development in the 117 Left Wing Extremism affected districts has granted general approval for diversion of forest land upto 5 ha for activities like schools, hospitals, electrical and communication lines and others implemented by government departments which are "critical public utility" in nature.
He said that the government has not formulated any specific parameters for deciding the projects which will be in the interest of public at large.
But, he said, the government while taking decisions on proposals seeking prior approval of central government under Forest Conservation Act 1980 have due regard to matters like whether the forest land proposed to be used for non-forest purposes form part of nature reserve, parks etc, whether the use of forest land is for agriculture purpose or for rehabilitation of persons and many other such matters.
In response to another question, Javadekar said that the ministry has taken a number of initiatives for expediting the decision making in environmental clearance process which include online submission of applications for grant of Terms of Reference (ToR), regular and longer duration of meetings of Expert Appraisal Committees for consideration of projects, regular monitoring of status of the pending projects and a host of other decisions.