Within 20 days, officiating Union Environment Minister M Veerappa Moily has cleared projects worth a little more than Rs 1 lakh crore, including the one from South Korean steel major Posco, attracting the largest foreign direct investment in India so far at Rs 54,000 crore.
The minister has been instrumental in even a U-turn in nuclear policy, by giving environmental clearance for the 2,800 Mw atomic power project at Gorakhpur in Haryana by Nuclear Power Corporation of India, which would see an investment of Rs 23,000 crore.
Others having got a green clearance include a Rs 6,000 crore (800 Mw) project of NHPC in Arunachal Pradesh, a Rs 5,000-crore deepwater container trans-shipment port to be set up at Vizhinjam in Kerala, expansion of a coal beneficiation plan by Global Coal and Mining in Odisha by two million tonnes annually, a Rs 467 crore Kapurdi Lignite Mine Project in Rajasthan and Indian Oil Corporation’s Rs 5,000 crore liquefied natural gas LNG terminal (five mt capacity) at Ennore in Tamil Nadu.
Moily confirmed giving approval for revalidation of environment clearance on Friday, which was stuck due to issues relating to forest and environment clearance and land acquisition since 2005. This comes ahead of South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s visit to India on January 15. The initial requirement of land for the 12-mt integrated steel plant was 4,000 acres. Of this, 2,700 acres is required during the first phase comprising 8 million tonne steel capacity. “I am clearing at least 80-100 files on an average per day. I will not allow any project to be stuck here,” Moily told Business Standard, when asked about the fast pace of clearances the ministry has been witnessing after he took charge. Moily took charge after former minister Jayanthi Natarajan resigned on December 21. She was heavily criticised for holding up projects worth Rs 10 lakh crore.
Meanwhile, Moily who also handles the petroleum ministry, has cleared 70 oil and gas blocks for bidding in the coming round of New Exploration Licensing Policy auctions. The blocks for the next round of Nelp auctions would be announced on Sunday. According to reports, at least 35 mega projects worth above Rs 1,000 crore each, were held up for final clearance by Natarajan. For the criticism of being the roadblock for even projects cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Investment, Natarajan had said, “Only eight per cent of projects that need environment clearance comes to MoEF ; the rest are cleared by the respective states and regional offices. Hence, it is wrong to say that I was sitting on projects with huge investment figures.”