The move has been taken with a view to expedite development activities

Environment: To construct urban roads, drainage, bridges, and develop housing estates, the works and human settlement ministry will not require environment clearances from the National Environment Commission (NEC).

In a major decision, NEC, during its 40th commission meeting on March 20, delegated the authority to issue environment clearance for more than 50 activities to the agencies concerned.

The commission also identified 97 activities that would not require an environment clearance.

NEC secretariat officials said this decision was taken in the interest of implementing developmental works faster. “The delegation of authority would reduce more than 50 percent of the workload,” a commission official said.

NEC secretary, (Dr) Ugyen Tshewang, said, for instance, for the establishment of piggery or poultry farms, the livestock department was in a better position than the commission to issue any clearance.

It was these activities, NEC officials said, that consumed most of their time, and hampered the progress of major activities.

The move comes after other government agencies criticised the commission’s slow progress in issuing environment clearances.

Recently, the works and human settlement secretary, (Dr) Dasho Sonam Tenzin, criticised the commission for delaying its projects in the 10th Plan during the finalisation of the annual performance agreement meeting in Paro.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, who is also the chairman of the commission, asked NECS to expedite the environment clearance issuance process at the mid-year review.

“Both private and government agencies keep saying that everything is ready, but it’s difficult to obtain the environment clearance,” lyonchoen had said.

However, a meeting between the officials of ministry of works and human settlement (MoWHS) and the commission officials, which was scheduled for March 23 to sort out the environment clearance issues, never happened.

NECS officials were informed that MoWHS officials were unable to take out time for the meeting.

With the decision, the industry department would now be responsible for approving printing presses, oil mills, fabrication units, bricks and tiles production, carpet and textile production using dyes, and establishment of micro-brewery and fuel depots.  It can even approve establishment of small and medium scale paper packaging products.

Similarly, the geology and mines department can approve mineral exploration for verifying minerals deposits and emergency response to natural disasters.

The thromde also need not refer to NECS to approve building constructions, setting up of telecommunication towers and hot mix or wet mix plants within the city, and any other activity approved by the government.

Authority to issue clearances for activities, such as surface collection of sand and stones, construction of irrigation channels, livestock farms, and other agriculture related activities, are with the various departments within the agriculture ministry.

NECS has also delegated the district environment committees the authority to approve construction of power tiller tracks, community schools, RNR centres, gewog centres, lhakhangs, choetens, outreach clinics, private road, road widening activities, establishment of sawmills, higher secondary schools, recreational facilities, stone crushing units and automobile workshops within the dzongkhag.

One does not also need to apply for an environment clearance to produce jari (tea leaf ball), incense, candles, noodles, potato chips, nursery seedlings, open a salon or a shoe repair shop, tailor shops, establish weigh bridge, dump yards, vegetable market sheds, parking space, crematorium, and small or medium scale flour mills and bakery.

NECS officials, however, clarified that the commission wasn’t holding on these activities, or had asked the proponents to apply for environment clearances.

“There was never a need to apply for an environment clearance for these activities,” (Dr) Ugyen Tshewang said. “But people have been applying, and we want to make this clear now.”

By Tshering Palden