(New Delhi, August 8, 2016) Chief Minister Shri Virbhadra Singh today called on Shri Anil Madhav Dave, Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, in New Delhi and discussed various issues of environmental clearances particularly the issue of delegation of powers to the State Government to accord environmental clearance for all run-of-the-river hydro power projects.
While attracting the attention of Union Minister on pending environmental clearances, the Chief Minister said that the State Government was facing lot of challenges in implementing various developmental projects such as construction of roads, hydel and irrigation projects in the State. He apprised that due to non-acceptance of diversion proposals by the Government of India, about 57 cases of hydro-electric projects, various mining projects and even the project of national importance of construction of Rohtang tunnel were held up. No forest clearance under Forest Conservation Act, 1980 has been accorded since last year, despite the best efforts and full justification given by the State Government in this regard, he added.
Empathetically raising the issue of delegation of powers to accord environment clearance for hydro-projects, Shri Virbhadra Singh expressed his concern that despite vast hydel power potential available in the State, execution of even the run-of-the-river hydel power projects were being delayed inordinately due to environment clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest. He urged the Union Minister that there was an urgent need to delegate the power to accord environmental clearances for hydel projects to the State Government.
The Chief Minister apprised that at present, hydro power projects less than 50 MW can be cleared by the State Government, whereas for projects that are more than 50 MW capacity, the clearance power was with the MOEF. He said that there was no need to enact the Environment Protection Act, 1986 to delegate the powers to the State and pleaded that the same provisions of the Act, which authorizes State Government to accord environmental clearance to the hydro projects upto 50 MW, might be invoked to enhance the delegation of power to accord environmental clearance for all the run-of-the-river hydro projects.
Shri Virbhadra Singh also raised the issue of diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes and urged the Union Minister that the powers of approval for such diversion may be enhanced from existing one hectare to 10 hectare, keeping in view the positive change in the forest cover of the State due to concerted efforts of the State Government, committed to increase the forest cover as per the guidelines of National Forest Policy. He said that the enhancement of such power would go a long way in meeting out the developmental needs of the people of Himachal Pradesh.
Shri Anil Madhav Dave assured Chief Minister that issues raised by him would be addressed on priority basis keeping in view the developmental needs of the people of the hill State. He also said that environment and clean-energy issues were also on the top of the agenda of the present NDA Government and assured the Chief Minister that the Union Government would like to work as partner in exploiting the vast hydel power potential available in the State.
Shri V.C. Pharka, Chief Secretary and Shri T.G. Negi, Principal Advisor to the Chief Minister were also present in the meeting.