NHAI, MoEF slug it out over highway clearances


While the NHAI is set to approach the court, sources said the Cabinet secretariat might intervene to end the dispute. The ministry of road transport and highways, the administrative ministry for NHAI, would also be roped in for an amicable resolution.

Meanwhile, according to the road ministry and NHAI, out of 39 major projects — each worth over Rs 1,000 crore — 20 are stuck due to delays in forest and environment clearances.

For road projects, the environment ministry gives environmental clearances only after forest clearances are obtained. This, according to NHAI, is the root cause of delays of all highway projects. Even if the ministry returns the incomplete application to the state government, a project doesn't lapse. Once the complete application is received with the required maps, surveys and lat-long grids, the ministry studies it for 10 days.

Allowing the French cement major Lafarge to mine limestone in the forests of Meghalaya's East Khasi hills, the court had in a July 2011 judgment asked the government to set up a national environment regulator and said that until this was done, an interim arrangement would be put in place by the ministry in consultation with states. The idea was to lay down the comprehensive guidelines for forest clearances.

However, the environment ministry hasn't fully complied with the court order as yet, NHAI alleged, adding that the ministry was reminded of the issue several times in recent months.

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