Plan Panel favours relaxing green norms in hilly states

Plan Panel to approach Environment Ministry seeking relaxation of norms for projects in hilly states.

New Delhi: Plan Panel today said it will soon approach the environment ministry seeking relaxation of norms for projects, particularly in the hydro-power sector, in hilly
states with high forest cover for timely exploitation of the potential.

"We will raise the matter with Jairam Ramesh thatwherever forest cover is high, say around 60-70 per cent... in those areas a little bit of flexibility is required," Planning
Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told reporters here.

Ahluwalia`s comments came after his meeting with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank to discuss state`s Plan size for 2011-12, where the Chief Minister raised the issue of delay or non-availability of environmental
clearances for hydro-electric projects in his state.

"Not only Uttarakhand but even Himachal Pradesh and North Eastern states have the same grievance," Ahluwalia said.

He said states like Uttarakhand have huge hydro power potential, which needs to be exploited in view of the country`s energy security and increasing focus on sustainable development.

"It (hydro power) is very important and we should exploit it. However, this is not easy because of the issue of environmental clearances. But we will talk with the concerned
ministries to ensure that the economic strength of states are fully utilised," he added.

According to people privy to the meeting, Nishank made a forceful plea against the strict environmental clearance norms during his presentation before the Commission.

The Chief Minister pointed out that numerous hydro-power projects, including one where World Bank funding has been secured, are lying in limbo due to lack of clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).


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