Need or greed?

The Union Ministry of Finance has recently alleged that green clearances are holding up the country's infrastructure development and growth. It has proposed setting up a national investment board for taking decisions on environment and forest clearances of projects in case the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests fails to do so within a stipulated time frame. An analysis of the clearances granted during the 11th Five Year Plan by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment shows the pace of such clearances has been unprecedented. The already granted clearances are not yet operational but ministries are asking for more. Highlights of the report that rebuts the proposal
Need or greed?
Forest clearances
  • Since 1981, when the Forest Conservation Act was enacted, 1,183,967 hectares (ha) of forests have been diverted; one-fourth of the diversions was done in the past five years
  • Mining and power projects account for nearly 30% of the total diversions
  • Rejection rate is low: only 6% of the projects applied for forest clearance
  • About 200,000 ha of forest land was diverted for 8,734 projects during the 11th Five Year Plan period alone; one-fourth of the land was diverted for mining, mostly coal (see graph)
  • At present, 45 coal mining projects are pending with the Central and state governments for clearance—15 with the Centre and 30 with states
Environment clearances


  • India is estimated to produce 575 million tonnes (MT) of coal in 2012-13. In the past five years, clearance has been given to almost double the existing capacity. This despite companies, including the Coal India Ltd, producing much less than their capacity
  • According to the Comptroller and Auditor General report, of the 86 coal blocks slated to begin production by 2010-11, only 28 have commenced. Besides, these blocks produced only 34.64 MT against the target of 73 MT—a shortfall by 52%


  • During 11th Plan period, 276 thermal power plants of 217,794 MW capacity were granted clearance; 206 of them are coal-based, with a capacity of 181,965 MW. The rest are fuelled by gas or biomass
  • This is when the target for the 11th Plan was 78,700 MW. So far, only 53,000 MW has been installed. Target for 12th Plan period is 100,000 MW
  • The clearance given in the 11th Plan period exceeds the target capacity for both the 11th and 12th Plan periods by 40,000 MW


  • By the end of the 10th Plan period, the installed capacity of cement plants was 179 MT per annum (MTPA). The target for 11th Plan period was 236 MTPA. As many as 112 cement plants with capacity of 202 MTPA were granted clearance during this period. If installed, these will more than double the existing capacity


  • During 11th Plan period, 203 iron and steel plants got clearance. These have the capacity of producing 33 MTPA of sponge iron, 97 MTPA of steel
  • As per the National Steel Policy 2005, 100 MT of steel production will be required by 2019-2020. The present installed capacity is 76 MTPA. Union environment ministry has granted clearance to a capacity of 97 MT of steel in the 11th Plan


  • During 11th Plan period, 364 mines got clearance. This includes 114 iron ore mines with 164 MT capacity, which is 75% of the existing capacity
  • During the period 29 bauxite mines with 21 MT capacity received clearance, which is 59% of the existing capacity. For limestone, 101 mines with 94 MT capacity were given clearance—about 50% of the existing capacity

Related Stories

No stories found.
Down To Earth