The National Planning Commission (NPC) has reduced the role of the Ministry of Forest and Environment in determining whether specific projects fall under the national priority project.
As per the new Standard on Determining National Priority Projects 2022, NPC will be responsible for determining whether specific projects recommended by the provincial governments and local governments are national priority projects.
A project that has its detailed project report (DPR) prepared, has secured a guarantee of resource availability and falls under the scope of the national priority as per the existing periodic plan, can be categorized as a national priority project.
Likewise, additional criteria such as completion of environmental impact assessment (EIA) or initial environmental examination (IEE) and secretary-level decisions of categorizing the project as a national priority should also be fulfilled.
A national priority development project receives approval to use the forest area and such a project can also conduct mining, process, and sell the mining materials. Both government and private sector projects can be categorized as national priority projects as per the set of standards.
The NPC is the recommending body in the case of projects which has been categorized as National Priority Projects-1 or National Priority Projects-2 by the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, a three-yearly expenditure projection, and the Annual Development Program of the government.
But NPC is responsible for determining the priority of local and provincial governments as national priority projects. As per the earlier standards, the NPC had little role in determining whether certain projects should be categorized as national priority projects.
A senior NPC official said that the new set of standards has cut down the process of determining whether a certain project was a national priority. “It has reduced the compulsion of taking the file to an additional ministry,” the official said.
In case of projects determined as a national priority by the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Annual Development Program, the NPC is responsible for notifying the line ministries about it only. And then, the ministries concerned should recommend that those projects are national priority projects to the Ministry of Forest and Environment which will do a needful to facilitate the development of such projects.
For the prioritized projects of the provincial governments, the provincial cabinet and Office of the Chief Minister and Council of Ministers should decide and recommend for categorization as a national priority.
A member of the NPC looks after it and makes necessary recommendations. Then, the planning body will determine whether the recommended project is a national priority project.
As per the earlier provision, the provincial government should have recommended to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the PMO would recommend to the Ministry of Forest and Environment for treating certain projects as national priority ones.
Similarly, in case of the projects designated as ‘local-level priority projects, the assembly meeting of the local governments should recommend to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, and based on the further recommendation of the ministry, the NPC will decide on the matter. Under the previous arrangement, the federal affairs ministry used to recommend to the forest ministry for treating such projects as national priority ones.
Likewise, regarding projects with a cost of over Rs 100 million to be operated by the NGOs or the community for social development, the decision of the local-level rural municipality executive is required. This should be forwarded to the federal affairs ministry and based on the recommendation of the ministry, the NPC will determine whether to enlist recommended projects as national priority ones. An industry categorized under the national priority list will get approval from the forest ministry to use the forest area based on the recommendation of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.