New Delhi : Babus in the Environment Ministry know how to continue the licence and permit raj even while their minister Prakash Javadekar tries to convert the ministry into a facilitation centre.

They will not be able to examine every case individually for granting the environment clearance after the notification of the Standard terms of reference (TOR), but even this TOR is full of so many requirements to bog down the proponents of projects. For instance, they have piled up as many as 44 clearances required for a coal mine under the new standard TOR published on Tuesday and just one less for non-coal mines like the iron ore mines.

The babus have retained the powers to harass the project proponents even beyond the standard TOR as it is stated that “EAC/SEAC (Environment Appraisal Committee/State EAC) will have the right and the responsibility of stipulating additional TOR in specific projects considering its project features.”

The 257-page booklet says the standard TOR, hailed as a major step forward in rationalising the process of clearances, will reduce delays, remove arbitrariness and make the system transparent, but it goes on to identify as many as 38 kinds of projects and activities that require the prior clearance under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006.

It says: “The standard TOR has been prepared for guiding the project proponent on preparation of EIA/EMP (Environment Impact Assessment/Environment Management Plan) report and expediting the process of environmental clearance without compromising environmental norms and the rigor of environment impact assessment. You name any activity and you have to land up in the Environment Ministry to first obtain the clearance, be it a river valley project, a thermal power plant, a cement plant, a leather industry, fertiliser, pesticide or petro-chemical industry, distilleries, paint industry, sugar industry, airport, port, harbour, highway, aerial ropeway or a township.

The long list of permissions that the ministry sought before giving the environment clearance on case-to-case basis have been all added up in the standard TOR that is bulkier than the files the ministry babus had to check while testing each application.

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