|Clarification of MOEF on Environment Clearance to Power Projects|
|In the wake of the nationwide power outages over the last two days, a section of the media has reported that one of the main reasons for the failure of the power grades have been power projects, which are said to have been “stalled” due to want of Environmental Clearance (EC). This is factually incorrect. The status is as follows:|
NTPC Bijapur Karnataka is said to have been stalled due to lack of environmental clearance. The fact is EC was granted on 25 January 2012.
Essar Madhya Pradesh is said to have been stalled due to lack of EC, but EC was granted as early as 20 April 2007. The same applies to Reliance Power Chitrangi Madhya Pradesh where EC was granted on 28 May 2010. The Essar plant is already in operation, although final Forest Clearance (FC) for both these projects is pending.
NHPC Dibang valley has been violently opposed by the local people, and public hearing has been postponed 5 times due to public unrest, although initial Terms of Reference (TORs) were issued on 17 August 2009. Further Dibang involves diversion of 5056 hectares of forest land-a massive extent of land which has to be carefully studied. With regard to the NHPC Middle Subanshri project, even the application for EC is yet to be received; Jaypee Lower Siang was granted TORs in 1 January 2007. But public unrest has not enabled the State Government to conduct public hearing to proceed further.
NPCIL Mithvirdi Gujarat far from being stalled due to lack of EC, even the application for EC has not been received at MoEF.
Saurashtra Coal Based is said to be stalled for want of FC but no application for FC has been received in the Ministry.
The Cheemei gas based TPP by Kerala State Industrial Corporation was considered for EC but postponed, because the promoters were not even sure about the blend of natural gas and RLG which they proposed to use for the plant. They were told to put their plan together and revert to MoEF.
With regard to environment and forest clearances for power plants, the following are the facts, as brought out by an independent study done by the Centre for Science and Environment in 2011. The 11th Five Year Plan has projected a target of 50,000 MW of additional thermal power capacity; the 12th Plan asks for 100,000 MW. Thus the total projection of power requirement for the 12th Five Year Plan is 100,000 MW. In the past 5 years, upto 2011, the MoEF has granted environmental clearance to 210,000 MW of power- that is 60,000MW more power than has been proposed until 2017. In most cases including coal and thermal power projects, clearances given by MoEF far exceed targets, and even capacity projected for the future. Figures and statistics which bear out this statement are available for every sector.
Further, MoEF has reviewed existing procedures to ensure that in cases where clearances are granted, there is no undue delay hardship or loss caused to the economy. It has been directed that both forest and environmental clearances should be simultaneously processed, in order to avoid delay. However, the actual EC is only handed over after the final forest clearance and wildlife clearance where necessary are given. With regard to forest clearance, upto 40 ha forest land may be cleared at the regional level itself, and it is only for much larger tracts of forest land that the matter is processed at MoEF. Four new regional offices in addition to the existing offices are being opened to facilitate the working of the Ministry, and also the Ministry has been strengthened by a GIS satellite data base-both to work on improving forest cover, as also to facilitate gathering of information for faster clearance.
It is reiterated that the best interests of the country require that utmost importance is given to considerations of protecting, nurturing, preserving and saving the environment.