New policies to incentivise tree cover outside forest, institution of civil penalties to check pollution violation and a mechanism for pre-fire alert to check forest fire are going to be the focus areas for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the next three years. MoEF Minister Praksah Javadekar has said his ministry will also work to reduce the time for environmental and forest approvals to 100 days. The ministry has already achieved a milestone by reducing the 600-day long approval time during the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government to mere 190 days at present, Javadekar said at a function here to commemorate the completion of two years of the Narendra Modi led NDA government.

“As a result of policy based decisions, streamlining measures, decentralisation, use of technology and changes in processes without compromising with the rigour of the process of environmental approvals, the time required for environmental approvals has reduced from 600 days in 2014 to 190 days at present,” Javadekar told the media.

The MoEF has in the last two years digitised the approval process. There is now a web portal for online submission and monitoring of forest clearance proposals. There is also the provision for real time monitoring of the proposals and the progress thereon online.

The ministry’s efforts have paid off with as many as 2,000 approvals being done in the last two years, bringing in an investment to the tune of Rs 10 lakh crore and a potential job supply of 10 lakh. “Pendency has now been completely done away with,” said Javadekar. All pending public importance projects like road, rail, canal, transmission and pipelines as well as irrigation projects have been approved, he said.

On the question of checking pollution, the ministry has envisaged an Integrated Waste Management System which will provide a customised GIS based information system for the country. The ministry has already completed the GIS mapping of 33,000 and MIS data of 27,500 hazardous waste industries.

“The emission standards have been upgraded for 20 polluting industrial sectors. Moreover, 24×7 real time emission and effluent monitoring has been installed in 2400 polluting industries, and 650 industries have been asked to close down based on these inputs,”Javadekar said. The ministry has also been able to register a 35% decrease in the industrial pollution levels in Ganga in the last two years.

The ministry has also planned a comprehensive tree-cover outside forest mission. Claiming that the MoEF hopes to have a 33% tree cover, Javadekar said: “Although our forest land is only 21%, we can achieve this by increasing tree cover outside forests. Agro forestry and plantation activities need to be incentivised. This needs an assurance that any amount of tree cover grown outside forests through private initiatives, will not be declared as forests.” He added that MoEF will work to give boost to school nurseries and will come out with new schemes like Urban Forest.

He said that MoEF is also carrying out research to have pre-fire alerts in place to arrest the phenomenon of fires in forests. “Forest fire is a grave issue. We had been making post fire alerts, but now we are working to have pre-fire alerts mechanism. Our research teams are studying the geographical contours, extent of leaves, moisture or dryness of a given forest, in order to be able to make a warning of fire in advance,” Javadekar claimed. He said that ground force will also be increased and there will be awareness drives and local capacity building to tackle the issue, as on many instances, fires have been caused by locals who lit fire to have better grasses.

The minister further said that in order that people comply by anti-pollution rules, civil penalties will be imposed. “Local bodies’ capacity has to be increased to monitor this,” Javadekar said.

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