New Delhi: In a decision to simplify the process followed in obtaining forest and environment clearance for setting up industrial and mining projects on forest land, Minister of Environment and Forest, Jayanti Natarajan, has allowed environment clearance before the stage-1 forest clearance is obtained.

The decision stands contrary to the Supreme Court order stating that environment clearance will remain in abeyance till permission to divert forest land for non-forest purpose is granted.

By issuing this new directive, the Environment Ministry has cleared that industries can file application for environment clearance before they receive approval from the forest department. They will only have to produce the identification of application letter filed for forest clearance.

Moreover, the surveillance committee will take the decision and the Ministry will give its nod on the project.

However, the ministry officials mentioned that the permission would be granted with certain conditions. It will be mandatory for the companies to present the forest clearance to the ministry within a year after getting approval from environment department. In certain cases, the time limit can be extended to one and a half year.

But environment clearance will be rejected if companies fail to produce forest clearance within defined time limit. In such a situation applicant will have to start the process in afresh.

The decision comes after a significant change introduced by former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh on March 31, who decided to grant environment clearance after appraising the project.

According to him, forest clearance will be mandatory for seeking stage II (Environment) clearance.

Even Supreme Court accepted the decision and stated that its implementation is important.