Report of the high powered committee on statutory clearances
In April 2008 an expert group was set up under the chairmanship of the secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs. It comprised representatives of the three industry lobbies (CII, FICCI, Assocham), the privately-owned Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services and Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation and the government-owned India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd. There were also a couple of officials from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Planning Commission in it.
On 10 November, 2008 the expert group submitted a report that recommended ‘rationaliszation of existing procedures and guidelines with a view to reduce the time taken in according the clearances and remove operational bottlenecks for the entrepreneur and project proponents’. The report containing the recommendations was however kept ‘secret’, which was very unfortunate considering that all issues related to statutory clearance need to be transparent and should be discussed in public domain.
Consequently a High Powered Committee (HPC) was constituted by the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), Government of India in December 2008 to look into the Recommendations made by an Expert Group, set up by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), to review various Statutory Clearances under the ambit of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). The Committee was chaired by the Secretary, Planning Commission and comprised representatives of Central Ministries (MoEF, MoIC), Government Organizations/Departments (CPCB, SPCBs, NIC, DIPP & State Environment/Forest Departments), Non-Governmental Organization (CSE) and Industrial Associations (CII, FICCI).
The broad Terms of Reference (ToR) of HPC covered the examination of recommendations made by the Expert Group for expediting the approval process of statutory clearances for industrial and infrastructure Projects, under various legislations of MoEF.
The Committee held three meetings between February 2009 and April 2010 and has submitted its recommendations to the Planning Commission.
It goes unsaid that in order to improve environmental governance, the roles of efficient and worthy Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) along with an equitable growth through proper Social Impact Assessment (SIA) are indispensable. They are not merely tools to assess possible impacts and suggest mitigation for the environmental and social issues, but processes, which if done well, can yield unexpectedly positive results in the form of sustainable and equitable growth.