New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) Amid the ongoing debate over delay in green clearances hampering key development projects, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan Tuesday said her ministry is not a "bottleneck" for economic development but "partner in development".
"There has been considerable debate about environment ministry being a bottleneck for economic development. But I want to say that there has been no delay in terms of processing clearances and we are no bottleneck," Natarajan told reporters here.
She said none of the development projects seeking forest clearance are pending with the ministry.
Giving details of projects, Natarajan said: "Of the total development projects, only 9 percent comes to the ministry for clearance while 74 percent are cleared by the state government and rest 17 percent by the regional offices of the environment ministry."
"With just 9 percent of clearances, we cannot be a bottleneck for development. All projects that can be cleared have been cleared," she said.
Asserting that sustainable development is the government's agenda, Natarajan said: "There is no difference in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that economic development which leads to degradation and destruction of environment cannot be true development."
She said in her one and a half year year tenure, 754 proposals calling for diversion of 18,204 forest land for development purpose have been cleared while 74 projects seeking diversion of 1,554 hectares were rejected.
Natarajan said the ministry is taking several steps to speed up the process of clearances so that industry is not put to hardship and any kind of harassment.
She said the ministry has issued some circulars in past few months to simply the clearance process and for linear projects - roads, oil pipeline and transmission lines, the provision of gram sabha's consent has been done away with it, which is mandatory otherwise under Forest Rights Act.
Relaxation has also been done for development projects in Maoist-affected areas, she added.