MoEF clears way for infra projects in forest areas

FP

Following the PMO's intervention to fast-track linear projects like roads, railway lines and power transmission lines, the Ministry of Environment & Forests has agreed to relax its guidelines for clearance of forest land falling in such project areas.

The MoEF has agreed to "facilitate phased preparation and processing" of linear project proposals. It has, however, added that a "technically feasible alternative alignment" for segments that fall in forest land will have to be provided. The user agency must resort to this alternate alignment in case forest clearance is not granted.

The MoEF has said that "in case of linear projects involving use of forest land falling in a portion of their length, pending consideration of approval under the Act, work on non-forest land may be executed..." In its communication sent to all state governments on Monday, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, the MoEF has added that the user agency, however, must "explicitly certify" that in case approval for diversion of forest land is declined, it is "technically feasible" to execute the project along an "alternate alignment without involving diversion of forest land".

Similarly, projects to widen roads will be allowed on non-forest land if the user agency submits that in case diversion of forest land is declined, the road width will remain unchanged in the forest area.

Earlier, several infrastructure ministries had complained that entire projects were held up by the MoEF even if the project area only included a small segment of forest land. The PMO had also expressed concern over the delay.

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