PMO steps in to end NHAI-MoEF face-off over forest clearance

FP

Following the Lafarge order, the MoEF went ahead linking the two clearances even to road widening projects. It now gives environment clearance to road projects only after forest clearance is obtained. NHAI argues that linking the two has delayed 22 projects that have already been awarded.

The delay in environment clearance also led to infrastructure firm GMR last month terminating the concession agreement with NHAI for the 555-km Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad project. The company won the contract in July 2011 but the project was not formally issued environment clearance even though it was approved in June 2012. The formal issuance was put on hold due to the delay in issuing the forest clearance.

While NHAI applies for environment clearances, the states through which the road passes have to apply for forest clearance.

The road transport ministry has been at loggerheads with the MoEF over alleged delays in granting of environment and forest clearance and squarely blames it for slow progress in projects worth over Rs 2,000 crore. It had sought the PMO's intervention to expedite linear projects awaiting green clearances. A committee of secretaries had also opined in favour of NHAI.

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