Over 2,000 projects involving Rs 10 lakh crore investment, which were stuck for years and some of them in key sectors, have been given environmental clearance in the last two years, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Tuesday.
Javadekar also said that in line with the government's policy of ease of doing business the average waiting period for approval of projects has been brought down to 190 days from 600 days during the UPA regime and the aim now is to slash it further to 100 days.
Some of the projects cleared by the Environment Ministry in the last two years were in important sectors such as roads, railway network, pipelines, irrigation canal, and they remained stuck for approval for many many years. The Modi government completes two years in office on May 26.
Calling it a kind of "revolution", the minister said the projects given the go ahead by his ministry will generate millions of jobs and spur India's economic growth to a great extent.
"We have cleared over 2,000 projects. This has unlocked Rs 10 lakh crore investment and it has the potential of creating direct employment of millions of jobs. This is not a small thing. The projects were unnecessarily languishing. Now there is no pendency," Javadekar told PTI in an interview.
Listing initiatives to make the process of granting environmental clearance, he said approvals were accorded strictly following policy decision and principle of standardisation and decentralisation.
"Earlier average waiting period for project approval was 600 days. Now it has come down to 190 days without compromising on any environmental condition and actually making environmental condition more stringent. This is in a way revolution," he said.
The Minister said the Centre has not discriminated against any state while clearing the projects and all the state governments were happy as they have been made partner in the decision making process.
The Minister said the forest cover in India has been increased by 3,500 sq km in the last two years
"We have increased forest cover by 3,500 sq km. It is forest cover within forest area and outside forest area. We have increased mangrove by 1,000 sq km. It is not a small achievement. It shows our direction and commitment," said Javadekar.
He said priority was being given to make the decision making process transparent and it has yielded very positive result.
After taking over as Environment Minister, Javadekar had said he felt the Ministry had become a "road block" Ministry as hundreds of projects were kept pending during the UPA rule.
Asked what would be the amount of investment by foreign entities out of Rs 10 lakh crore, Javadekar could not give a direct reply, saying such details are kept by ministries of Finance and Commerce.
The Minister said the process of giving clearance to defence projects have been categorised under "general" to make the approval faster.
"We accorded general approval for defence infrastructure within 100 km of Line of Actual Control(LAC) at the border(with China). The files of border roads which were pending in my Ministry have been done away with.
"We have taken a policy decision of dencentralisation.
Projects of 40 hectares and below and linear projects will be taken up at 10 offices instead of one ministry," he said.
Javadekar further said, "Our mantra is sustainable development so we must care for environment. We have made environmental conditions, pollution norms more stringent. It is development without destruction."
Asked about projects waiting for environmental clearance, the Minister said there is practically no pendency at the level of the Ministry.
"At our 10 regional centres, there is very less pendency.
At the state level, there is pendency somewhere. We are tackling it with each state, taking them into confidence to speed up the process," he said.