Some $40 billion worth of industrial and infrastructure projects in India have received environmental permits in just one month after the country’s oil minister, Veerappa Moily (pictured), took on a second job as head of the environment ministry. And Moily says he’ll make decisions on another $100 billion worth by February 15.
The approvals so far include a $12.6 billion Posco steel plant and forest clearances for major hydropower plants. Moily has also approved an oil pipeline and a Hinduja National Power coal-fired plant, and relaxed rules for coal mine expansion.
He rejected, however, Vedanta Resources’ plan to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Odisha state.
Reuters ties the approvals to the government’s attempt to revive the economy as a general election looms, due by May. Opposition leader Narendra Modi has said he will revive the economy by cutting red tape.
The government has a target to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure projects in the five years to 2017, but much of the country still suffers from power blackouts and poor roads. Two days of blackouts in 2012 forced thousands of factories and hospitals to rely on generators and cost businesses an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars.
An internal probe found that the environment ministry was responsible for many project delays.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, say Moily is ignoring their concerns as well as opposition from tribal groups. Greenpeace demanded his resignation.
While environmental permitting gets easier in India, EL PRO recently reported on shifting politics in Chile, where energy and mining projects are stalling.
Takeaway: India’s combination oil-and-environment minister is quickly approving billions of dollars’ worth of industrial projects, with billions more to come.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.