PUNE: Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Sunday said there is a need to strike a balance between implementation of infrastructure projects and protection of environment to achieve economic development. He added that some realistic approach is needed to minimize delays in issuing clearances for infrastructure projects that have been stalled due to environmental issues.
Chavan was speaking at the inauguration of the western zone bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the city. "Plenty of litigations are coming out about environment issues in relation to infrastructural development. As we want to create more industries, houses and infrastructure projects, we are putting huge pressure on environment. Infrastructural projects near natural habitats like water bodies, forests now have to go under the environment impact assessment. Pendency is huge for clearance of such projects. It is a challenge before the state and Union government on how to fast track the environmental clearances," said Chavan.
Referring to the Madhav Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats, Chavan said if it is implemented, development in the Konkan region would completely stop. Also, projects like expansion of national highway 17 and Navi Mumbai airport are facing environment clearance issues. He said there was a need to alter the definition of a river as some rivers flow for two to four months.
"Climate change challenges are needed to be taken seriously. The state government has taken steps to increase forest cover up to 33%. Steps are taken to protect mangroves. There are about 40,000 gas connections in forest areas to restrict cutting of trees for cooking purposes," Chavan said. He added that NGT would help in minimizing conflicts between infrastructure development and environment.
NGT chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar said NGT will also conduct hearings in the high courts coming under the western zone. Chief justice of Bombay high court Mohit Shah said environment regulating agencies need capacity building.
The jurisdiction of western zone NGT bench would cover Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Union Territories of Daman, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
The tribunal is placed on the first floor of the building located on the premises of the new administrative building at Council Hall.