Environment minister assures faster approval of defence projects

New Delhi, Amid concerns that China was ahead of India in terms of border infrastructure, the central government Thursday decided to accelerate the process of environmental clearances for defence projects along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by making it "simpler, transparent and predictable".

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the government would evolve "policy-based solutions" for the pending environment clearances.

"We are evolving new ways of solutions to the existing problems of environment clearances by evolving policy based solutions," Javadekar told reporters here.

"Delays in the defence projects were due to case-by-case decision making process. We will put policies in place and make policy based decisions," he said.

The environment minister said giving clearance to defence projects will be the priority for his ministry.

"Instead of case by case delayed method of approval, we are making simpler, transparent & predictable process of approvals," Javadekar said.

The decision to speed up the process of clearances was taken after senior defence ministry officials, led by its secretary, R.K. Mathur, met Javadekar.

Sources said several projects were held up due to environment clearances.

With environmentalists were concerned over the clearance to a proposed radar station in Narcondam island of the Andaman and Nicobar chain, the minister said environment protection would be kept in mind while framing policies.

"In Narcondam and other areas, we will ensure complete protection of nature, including of hornbills. We won't compromise on environment protection," he said.

He also said forest clearances along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the working boundary line between India and China, will be given by the concerned state government.

"The 100 km area within the LAC is for defence purpose, but you need forest clearance...It will be brought under general approval mode (under state government) so that defence projects can be expedited and forests can also be conserved," said Javadekar.

The LAC with China touches several states and the central government has over the past few years taken steps to improve border infrastructure.

Javadekar said he would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

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