Promising development without destruction of environment, the government on Tuesday said it would simplify procedures for green clearances while stepping up efforts to get Rs 35,000 crore, stuck in litigations, released for afforestation.
Replying to a discussion on the demands for grants of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the amount of Rs 35,000 crore is blocked in litigations and the government would strive to release a major chunk of it to the states. The demands were later approved by the Lok Sabha.
He also assured the Lok Sabha that the government would focus on "development without destruction of environment".
The Minister said the government would ensure that major chunk of the money under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) would be distributed to states.
Noting that the priority is to simplify procedures without destructing the environment, Javadekar said, the government plans to convert degraded and barren forests into dense, green forests. "... That is our committment," he added.
On recommendations made by Kasturirangan and Madhav Gadgil committees with respect to Western Ghats, Javadekar assured that no decision would be taken "without holding consultations with (concerned) states". "We will look at the ground realities before taking any decisions," he noted.
Listing out measures initiated by the new government to expedite environmental clearances, the Minister said, "we have to take development and environment protection at equal level".
The government has made the processes for environmental and forest clearances through online.
Contending that he does not want to get into a blame game, Javadekar said earlier Environment Ministry was perceived as a "road block Ministry".
Responding to concerns raised by members that budgetary allocation for the Ministry has been cut, Javadekar said it has not been reduced but only re-allocated.
Describing one-horned rhinos found in forests in Assam as a wildlife treasure, the Minister said he was planning to visit the state to study the "very serious incidents" of its poaching.
Responding to another question, he said the government was committed to increase the CNG network in public transports in all urban centres to reduce the pollution level in cities.
On pollution of river Ganga, Javadekar said six centrally- funded sewage treatment plants (STPs) have been set up in the river to address the issue. He, however, said these plants are not functional full time due to power crisis.
The Minister allayed concerns expressed by members on the issue of tribals' rights over forests, saying the rights of forest dwellers on forest produces will be protected at any cost.
Javadekar also assured strict enforcement of law to check the incidents of illegal sand mining which is rampant in many parts of the country.
During the discussion, Opposition members demanded clear set of rules for according faster clearances to industrial projects stalled in environmental hurdle. Terming that environmental clearance has become a major "racket" in the environment ministry, TMC member Saugata Roy said "there should be a clear-cut policy or rule for clearances. Delay causes setback to our industrial development".
Talking about green-nods to projects, Roy said time frame should be laid out for online clearances. He said the government should follow a sustainable development model to help economy grow at 7-8%.
He also said the plan allocation for the Ministry was fixed at Rs 2,043 crore in the current fiscal, less than Rs 2,340 crore budgeted last year. The actual spending by the ministry in 2013-14 was over Rs 1,800 crore.
Among others, Prem Das Rai (SDF), R Vanaroja (AIADMK), Vijay Kumar Hansdak, (JMM) and Ashwini Kumar Choubey (BJP) spoke during the discussion.