|PMO pulled out all stops to weaken eco, forest norms
February 27, 2014
Some changes were ordered on the direct instructions of the Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s office has repeatedly ordered and orchestrated
dilution of environment and forest clearances in order to fast-pace
industrial projects, documents with The Hindu show.
In a series
of orders and missives sent to the Union Environment and Forests
Ministry over 2012-2013, the PMO instructed that regulations and norms
had to be diluted or done away with. These included application of the
United Progressive Alliance’s much touted pro-tribal law to the
clearance process — the Forest Rights Act.
At times some of
these changes were ordered on the direct instructions of Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and required time-bound compliance by the Ministry,
documents and correspondence show. To ensure dilutions, the PMO ordered
that a committee be set up with a pre-meditated outcome of rolling back
the specific regulations.
The orders were sent to the Ministry
by Pulok Chatterjee, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and
other, more junior officials. Most of these were followed up and
complied with, though some were opposed in parts for various reasons.
PMO recommended that the requirement of environmental clearance for
projects worth up to Rs. 500 crore be done away with entirely. Projects
worth up to Rs. 1,000 crore should be evaluated only at State level and
should not come to the Union government for clearance.
also asked that all buildings, real estate projects and Special
Economic Zones be taken out of the purview of environmental clearance.
It asked that expansion of capacity up to 25% for mining projects be
done automatically without any public hearing.
clearances, the PMO asked that projects requiring up to 40 hectare of
forests, instead of the then existing limit of four hectare, be handled
by regional offices of the Ministry. Instead of having one Forest
Advisory Committee, several statutory panels should be set up across
the country to become the final deciding authorities, the PMO said.