Green nod for road project that triggered NHAI-MoEF face-off

Days after the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) dragged the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to the apex court alleging delays in granting of forest clearance, the ministry has granted forest clearance to the 555-km Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad National Highway widening project that had first sparked the conflict.

While the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has recommended the project, it is not amused with NHAI's rather public finger pointing at MoEF. Minutes of the FAC meeting held on January 21-22 observe how MoEF has been "blamed unpleasantly" for delays.

It records in the minutes how NHAI's "feebly informed statements" had great potential of being treated as an "undue influence on decision making of statutory body like FAC". The minutes also point out that the proposal for the Gujarat portion of the Kishangarah project was submitted as late as December 31 and was in fact sent promptly to MoEF's regional office for mandatory site inspection.

NHAI's proposal for widening Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad section of NH 79A, NH 79, NH 76 and NH8 involves diversion of 78 hectares forest land.

The MoEF and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways have been at loggerheads especially after GMR pulled out of the 555-km project in December 2012. NHAI says over 22 projects stand stalled owing to delay in granting of forest clearance.

FAC says its screening of NHAI proposal files showed these were sent to MoEF with "several serious deficiencies".

Environment Minister Jayanti Natarjan Tuesday said her ministrynever hampered economic development.

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