As per the previously articulated decision, MoEF launched a web portal for forest clearance today. The web portal for online submission and monitoring of forest clearance proposals will help enable real time monitoring of the Forest Clearance proposals and will ensure that time-lines stipulated for processing of these proposals by various authorities in the Centre and State Governments are adhered to. The Minister for MoEF said that this will bring in more transparency, efficiency and accountability in the grant of regulatory clearances.

It is said that valuable time will not be lost in seeking additional information from the States and project proponents, once a proposal seeking Forest Clearance has been accepted by concerned authority in the State Government. However, it is not clear if MoEF officials at the center are prevented from seeking any inputs from the State Government and hence clearing everything that has been passed on to them.

To facilitate smooth transition, for the initial one month, the project proponents will have option to file forest clearance applications in both online mode through this portal or in the offline mode as is being done by them till today. From 15th August 2014 onwards, all new forest clearance proposals will be accepted only through online mode through this portal.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has initiated several other measures to make the process for grant of Forest Clearance more transparent and objective manner. To facilitate informed decisions on forest clearance proposals, the Ministry through the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun is developing a GIS based decision support system, consisting of GIS layers on forest cover, forest types, biological richness, integrity of forest landscapes, geo-referenced boundaries of the Protected Areas, Eco-sensitive Zone of Protected Areas, notified tiger corridors, other important migratory corridors, habitat of rare and endangered flora and fauna etc.

We feel that it is important to take decisions fast and not keep it pending as the delays cause time and cost over runs for industrial projects and portrays MoEF in bad light. However, MoEF cannot simply become a clearing house of approving any and every project that needs forest clearance. Over a period of time we would come to know if this process is robust enough to stop projects that doesn't warrant forest clearance.