Stung by criticism, the commission springs into action to clear its go-slow image

NEC: The National Environment Commission (NEC) will soon meet ministries and agencies to discuss ways to expedite the process of availing environment clearance.

“We’d do this soon because there are so much confusion and complaints,” NEC secretary Ugyen Tshewang said. “We have to have a dialogue to improve the services.”

The first of the ministries the commission would meet is the works and human settlement ministry (MoWHS).

The secretaries of NEC and MoWHS met during the presentation of the annual performance agreements (APA) 2015-16 in Paro last week, and agreed to ‘sit together to discuss issues and find solutions’ on the environment clearance issuance.

Depending on the kind of project, as minor or major, it takes between two and a half months to nine months to avail an environment clearance.

The commission has to date issued EC to 37 of the 186 proposed projects in less than a month, while the remaining are still pending for additional information.

The department of roads will construct more than 500km of roads in the next fiscal year and would require clearances for each of them.

Seeking the commission’s support, the MoWHS secretary, [Dr] Sonam Tenzin, said that, for timely completion of activities regarding roads or highways, getting environment clearance on time has been difficult until now.

He said major delays in road construction have been attributed to non-issuance of environment clearance, both by the project management and the contractors.

“Even in the 10th Plan there were many cases where environment clearance had hindered progress of department of roads’ projects,” he said.

[Dr] Sonam Tenzin also said that NEC demanded many irrelevant and trivial information, which were not available with the agency and impossible to furnish. “These information weren’t even used in providing the clearance.”

The secretary said that the commission should provide alternative technical solutions, due to the lack of which, the department of roads landed up paying penalties.

He suggested that NEC personnel visited the sites on time and reduce clearance time from the dzongkhag and the NEC.

Ugyen Tshewang said that the agencies should know how to solve issues without compromising laws.

“The process involves getting clearances from other agencies, such as dzongkhag administration, forest and culture departments, which also take time,” he said.

The commission has only four staff working on the clearances, and the poor condition of their pool vehicles impedes their regular site visits, the secretary said.

By Tshering Palden