By Chetan Chauhan
A government panel has cleared 130 projects, including mining pits, power plants and a defence testing site, close to protected wildlife areas.
The go-ahead was aimed at addressing industry’s concerns over stalled projects and the panel ensured that adequate safety measures were put in place, a senior ministry official told HT Tuesday.
“We have not stopped the projects for unnecessary reasons as it used to happen in the past,” the official said. “Precautions have been taken to ensure that there is minimal adverse impact on wildlife. All projects approved have national importance.”
Limestone quarrying has been allowed at five spots close to Gujarat’s Barda sanctuary — a habitat for endangered spotted eagle and crested hawk eye — in Porbandar. The mines will feed a public sector company’s unit that has come in for severe criticism for discharging affluents into a nearby water body, say the minutes of the meeting, accessed by HT.
The projects were approved on the condition that the unit would get a treatment plant and not discharge any pollutants in the water body, the official said.
Three limestone mines will also come up within 6 km of Mukundra Hill Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan.
Notified in 2013, Mukundra is the third tiger reserve in the desert state. Environmentalists had protested when mining was allowed in the state’s Sariska reserve.
A truncated National Board for Wildlife standing committee -- comprising two independent members -- met in August and in one sitting cleared all the projects, all of which will come within 10 km of protected areas. Some of the proposals were left undecided by the previous UPA government, often criticised for delaying decisions on projects and adversely hitting investment sentiment.
Parliament was informed about the committee’s decision Friday. HT found that only a few projects that came for approval were rejected and some deferred for want of information. Environment minister Prakash Javadekar, who heads the panel, was not available for comments but had said earlier the ministry was following the mantra of “quick decision without any delay” based on prudent appraisals.
An intelligence bureau office will border the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh, mining has been allowed within 10 km of Sanjay Tiger Reserve in Sidhi, Son Ghariyal Wildlife Sanctuary and Kanha National Park.
The committee also allowed diversion of forestland from the Kerala’s Periyar Tiger Reserve to increase the height of Kunnar Dam. In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, a Defence Research and Development Organisation testing facility is to come up along the Bay of Bengal coast, close to a rare olive ridley turtle nesting site. The DRDO will, however, no conduct tests between January and May, when the turtles come to nest.