Prakash Javadekar, who is the first environment minister to function out of offices in the new ecologically friendly Indira Pariyavaran Bhavan, is focusing his energies on improving the ministry’s image.
Javadekar, who doesn’t want to get into blame game mode, says he will exorcise the environment ministry of its reputation, acquired in the UPA regime, as a “roadblock”.
“I got a legacy in which the environment ministry was perceived as a roadblock ministry… a speed breaker to the growth. Therefore, after assuming charge I assured the people that we believe and our firm conviction is that both environment protection and growth can go hand in hand.”
“My slogan is development without destruction. We care for mother earth. We care for nature. But we want development also. They are not foes they are friends. Decisions are in, delays are out”, said Javadekar in an interaction with news agency PTI.
To this end, the government is working to reducing the time taken for environment and forest clearances as well as making processes more transparent.
“We will bring down the timeline. For environment clearance, we have already kept two months. For forest clearance, there are two stages — terms of reference and final clearance. But we are setting timelines and there was a huge process of 200 days which also we can bring down.
For every industry it is different but we will shorten the process without compromising quality. But by simplifying processes we can do in a shorter span of time,” said Javadekar. The environment minister said he is not interested in computing the exact extent of financial loss or the worth of the projects that were kept pending for clearance during the UPA government.
Javadekar suggested the approach of his predecessors in the ministry had caused a “loss of face” to the nation as it was seen as “speed breaker” to development and foreign investors had started leaving the country. The minister said that has inherited thousands of pending files as legacy from the previous UPA government and the monetary damage it caused is “innumerable”. The environment minister’s words will come as a welcome change to industry, which have often treated environmental rules and procedures as unnecessary and cumbersome.
While many of the processes currently in place could be streamlined and made more effective, the minister’s focus on clearance processes without commensurate attention to monitoring and effective implementation of laws does present a cause of concern.
Describing the monetary value of the cost to the country as a result of delays in clearances, Javadekar said, “It is innumerable. It can’t be counted in rupees. It is the loss of face. The international investors started withdrawing from from India only because of this. We don’t want that to happen.”
On alleged irregularities under his predecessors, Javadekar said he will do “due deligence” after some time but his first priority was to “deliver”. He said priority was being given to clearing defence and public welfare projects like national highways, railways, ports, roads, airports and power transmission lines.