Indian industry and project proponents have welcomed online environment clearances for industrial and infrastructure projects launched by the Ministry of Environment and Forest recently.

Although the online submission for Terms of Reference and Environment clearance proposals came into effect from June 5, the process will be made entirely online from July 1, 2014. In fact, ToR and EC proposals will be accepted only online by the environment ministry.

The move, seen as critical to project development and implementation, is expected to improve transparency in the entire system.

Online mechanism will monitor project approval and compliance stage wise. It will also ensure security of information while simultaneously maintaining transparency in dealings between the environment ministry and the project applicant.

“On successful submission of such a proposal, an email containing an acknowledgement slip will be sent automatically to the project proponent with a copy to the concerned Member Secretary (Expert Appraisal Committee). The ToR and EC applications have to be examined within five and 15 working days respectively by the Member Secretary and additional information, if any, will be sought from the project proponent within this timeframe itself. Thereafter, an acceptance letter will be sent to the project proponent informing that his or her proposal would be taken to the Expert Appraisal Committee for appraisal,” Dr. Satish C. Garkoti, Director, I.A. Division, Ministry of Environment and Forests said in an office memorandum dated June 6, 2014. The memorandum is available on the ministry’s website.

Welcoming the online environment clearance mechanism, FICCI President Sidharth Birla said, “This is a pathbreaking step by the government as it would bring transparency and objectivity to the process of clearance and ensure timely implementation of projects. Providing timelines at every step of clearance and making it online will help in tracking the status of the project on a real time basis.”

FICCI has been working with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Project Monitoring Group under the Cabinet Secretariat for mapping and digitising each stage of clearance process under Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006 and Forest Conservation Act. Besides environment and forest clearance, FICCI is also mapping the mining clearance process under MMDR (Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act) along with the Project Monitoring Group and Ministry of Mines.

“Government should now draw a time bound roadmap for integrating and digitising all the permissions for setting up the projects under one single platform which would boost investor confidence and ensure faster delivery of projects,” Birla stated.

Indian industry also wants the government to take a holistic look at issues related to the project clearance process by rationalising and simplifying the entire process of clearance not just at the Centre but also at the state level.

The environment ministry is soon expected to implement a similar mechanism for forest and mining clearances.

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