It has been just a little over three months since the BJP government came to power but it has cleared several pending files, including all environment ministry files, raising doubts over whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been compromising with the environment.
Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Thursday that there is not a single file pending in his ministry. The Expert Appraisal Committee, a body which examines environmental projects and its impact, cleared 217 projects in three months while former environment ministry under Jairam Ramesh had cleared 212 files in seven months, Hindustan Times reported.
"We have deleted the word delay from our systems. The environment ministry had been known for road-blocking, speed-breaking and return of license permit quota raj. We have dispelled all this and are talking fast decisions. Now there is not a single file pending on my table," Money Control quoted Javadekar.
He added that his ministry is working towards making amendments to certain acts in the Parliament's winter session this year.
Earlier this month, India fast tracked road projects along borders it shares with China starting in Arunachal Pradesh to ensure security and to avoid any possible threats from its neighbour. However, the environment ministry eased out rules for accomplishing these projects.
Instead of afforesting twice the area being cut for a project, the ministry permitted the Indian Border Roads Organisation to afforest only as much area as being deforested.
Commenting on the aforesaid decision, Javadekar said that the hurdles in the way of infrastructural development were removed to ensure security and claimed that it would not compromise with the environment.
"The 6,000-km border roads were bogged down with too many environmental hurdles. What we have removed is not the conditions of compensatory environment or aforestation. We have given a general approval so that it becomes a seamless process and for 100km from LOC, all border roads plus all strategic defence infrastructures have come under general approval," he said
The Modi-government is also considering changes in Forest Right Act, which would take away tribal's veto power to stop government from felling trees for infrastructural projects. Under the act, tribal village council's consent is a must to clear forest for any projects such as roads and railway lines construction.
All these decisions may affect the environment adversely, if environmental rules and norms are ignored. Also the welfare of tribals can be an important concern if the government starts clearing forests at a rapid rate for the 'vision: infrastructural development 2022'.
It is not just the environment ministry, Gujarat chief minister had reportedly cleared a number files on the very first day she took charge of the office.