Jairam softens stand at GoM meet on clearances to infra projs

New Delhi, Feb 18 (PTI) Softening his stance, EnvironmentMinister Jairam Ramesh today assured a Group of Ministers thathe will be "positive" towards infrastructure projects and soonlift moratorium on 25 areas, a development that will helpprojects stranded on green concerns.

"I have assured them that from our Ministry''s side, wewill adopt a positive attitude...," Ramesh told reportersafter the GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,held its first meeting to iron out the inter-ministerialdifferences on environment related issues.

Ramesh, who of late has relaxed green norms for big-ticket projects like Posco and Lavasa, said his Ministry hadalready lifted moratorium on 13 areas, categorised as''critically polluted'' under Comprehensive EnvironmentPollution Index (CEPI).

He said technical teams from the Central PollutionControl Board are in the field.

"I hope that we will be able to lift the moratorium byend of March as we had originally anticipated," he said,adding that CEPI was not coal pollution index but acomprehensive emission measurement tool.

Ramesh who had earlier taken tough stand to enforceforest and environment protection laws, said he did not intendto "stop the projects." However, it is also true that there isdecline in forest cover in the country, "which needs to bechecked," he said.

The 12-member GoM comprising among others, Coal MinisterSriprakash Jaiswal, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, SteelMinister Beni Prasad Verma and Road Transport Minister CPJoshi, met in the backdrop of various controversies, mainlyover "go" and "no go" areas in coal mines.

In the midst of the inter-ministerial rows, mostly withthe Environment Ministry, Mukherjee has asked Ramesh torespond to issues raised by the Coal Ministry by March 15.

The meeting, remained inconclusive and the ministers arelikely to meet again in the middle of March for bridging theirdifferences.

"All the issues like no go coal blocks, coal imports etcwere discussed. We will meet again sometime in the second weekof March on the issue," Coal Minister Jaiswal said after themeeting.

He exuded confidence that most of the issues will beresolved.

The ''no-go'' classification by Environment Ministry in2009 had disallowed mining in 203 blocks with the potential ofproducing 660 million tonnes of coal a year. According to CoalMinistry estimates, the output from these blocks could havebeen used to generate around 1.3 lakh MW of power per annum.


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