MUMBAI: After doling out a string of land and fiscal incentives to reel in investors in its new industrial policy, the state government has now sweetened the deal further. With delays and red tape in environmental clearances remaining a big hurdle for investment in the state, the government has decided to take steps to ensure applications are disposed of in three months.
Environmental clearances often take over a year-and-half at present. A senior state official said the lengthy process has also discouraged certain potential investors.
Now, with the race to lure investors hotting up between states, the state government has decided to change this perception.
To offer investors an assurance that their applications for green clearance with be disposed of within three months, the state has decided to set up a dedicated expert appraisal committee.
The state-level expert appraisal committee (SEAC) scrutinizes projects and their impact on the environment. Projects are cleared or rejected on the basis of SEAC recommendations.
Currently, the state has a couple of SEACs in place. While one examines construction and industrial projects in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), the other scrutinizes industrial, irrigation, construction and other projects outside the MMR.
The clearance process has been adversely hit with both the SEACs having a pendency of 300 cases at any given time. A five-month delay in appointing the SEAC and a spurt in applications are blamed for the backlog.
To fast-track the clearance for industrial projects, the government will now set up a separate SEAC, exclusively for industrial projects. CM Prithviraj Chavan is keen that applications are disposed of within three months, said an official. Chavan has also proposed a separate SEAC for real estate projects in the MMR. Conceding that slow environmental clearances remain a major investor concern, Chavan recently said he had held discussions with PM Manmohan Singh in this context.
To retain the status of most-favoured destination for investment, the state has already announced a slew of measures in its new industrial policy. A controversial clause which permits special economic zones to be converted into townships with an FSI of 1 in most cases is a part of it.