New Delhi: The Union budget is likely to have a strong green element when it’s announced later this month, in line with recent comments by environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
On Monday, the environment ministry released an updated compendium of manuals outlining rules and procedures that companies ought to adhere to when seeking regulatory approvals.
Ramesh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee discussed earmarking financial incentives in the budget for companies that comply with environmental norms when signing projects as well as “punishments” for those that don’t, the environment minister said on 23 January.
“To help companies better comply with these norms and make the process more transparent, we’ll be releasing updated guides to better negotiate the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (EIA),” he had said, without elaborating.
EIA is the defining document that prescribes conditions for companies setting up any infrastructure that has an impact on the environment.
Stakeholders have mixed opinions on the role of fiscal incentives and transparency in facilitating the sustainable development of projects.
“Right now, there are uncertainties regarding projects and implementation both at the regulator’s end as well as companies when they approach the regulators. That is the biggest reason for strife when projects are set up,” said Harsh Singhania, managing director of JK Paper Ltd, on the sidelines of a conclave by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Incentives for complying with EIA norms had been mooted by the 13th Finance Commission, headed by Vijay Kelkar, last year. While it suggested giving nearly Rs.3,000 crore to the states for achieving afforestation targets, it added that a part of the proceeds should go to industries that promote sustainable growth and green technology.
Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer, said the ministry was granting approval to most projects, the most recent being Monday’s clearance for Posco’s $12 billion (around Rs.55,000 crore) steel project in Orissa. “After Posco, the message is loud and clear that a big investment will always trump ecological and environmental concerns,” he said.