The Union environment ministry is expediting projects, awaiting environmental clearance, in Gujarat. In its next Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting scheduled for Thursday-Friday, one-third of the total projects to be discussed for forest clearance are from Gujarat.
Nine of 26 pending projects are from Gujarat — eight of which relate to renewal of salt leases. This holds significance as 70 per cent of the total salt produced in India comes from Gujarat. India is the world’s third largest salt producer.
These eight salt factories are spread across an area of 3,291 hectares and located in the Jamnagar district.
The latest government data showed the most pending cases awaiting environment clearance were from Gujarat among all states in India. For instance, 55 of 300 pending projects for environment clearance (18 per cent) were from Gujarat as on July 4 this year, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply on July 9. After Gujarat, the most pending cases were from Andhra Pradesh (35).
So far, this year the environment ministry has cleared 30 projects. Of these, six were from Andhra Pradesh, four from Gujarat and four from Madhya Pradesh.
Javadekar had said projects would be expedited on merit and that “the colour of the state” would not be any consideration for giving green nod.
Looking at the vast number of salt production proposals pending with the environment ministry in Jamagar, the FAC, in its meeting on 26 August, 2011, had noted, “The committee was of the view that the proposals of salt production involve large tracts of land. There is a need to assess these cases in totality from the angle of avian faunal and floral diversity which could be done by referring all the cases to the National Board of Wildlife (NBW) as they are in the vicinity of the Jamnagar Marine National Park.”
To gauge the overall impact of salt manufacture, the committee also wanted a socio-ecological assessment of such cases and the need to “assess the impact of salt panning on the overall biodiversity of the area, including the mangroves that have come up in defunct salt pans”
According to a Supreme Court ruling, any activity proposed within 10 km of a national park or wildlife sanctuary or inside requires recommendation of the Wildlife Board, headed by the prime minister.
However, the NBW is waiting to be reconstituted as the tenure of the last Board was completed in September last year. Javadekar had assured of a “speedy reconstitution” of the Board in its meeting with Narendra Singh Tomar, minister of mines, steel, and labour and employment and Piyush Goyal, power and coal minister last month.