In an unusual move, her ministry issued a factsheet on her first year at the helm of the Ministry of Environment and Forests saying that she had granted environmental clearances to 209 project proposals implying that she had not really slowed down projects at the clearance level. She said that at present, her ministry had “zero pendency” but insisted that her focus has been that all the various sectors utilise the green clearances that are lying unutilised.
“As a part of the government, I am totally with the Prime Minister’s reform process for economic development. But as a minister for environment and forests, it is also my duty to make sure that there is a balanced approach for sustainable growth. My focus has been that the various sectors utilise all the clearances already granted to them but are lying unutilised,” she told The Indian Express, adding, “We have zero pendency at the ministry right now.”
On the other hand, the factsheet also seeks to refute the criticism that there has been wanton diversion of forest land thanks to green signals to various projects, mainly mining.
It says that during her tenure from July 13, 2011 to July 12, 2012, she granted forest clearances to 1,126 proposals translating into diversion of 15,639 hectares of forest land, which is only 44 per cent of the annual average rate of diversion (35,775 hectares per annum) during the 32 years of the existence of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
Earlier this week, Natarajan had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raising objections to the proposed National Investment Board, which would act like a final appellate body for all sorts of project clearances.