The Cabinet is stepping in to clear green hurdles standing in the way of building highways involving billions of dollars of investment.
To speed up the development of various projects of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) as well as private developers, the Prime Minister-led Cabinet committee on investments will soon step in to resolve differences between the ministries of environment and forests (MoEF) and that of road transport and highways.
The committee will take up the issue in its meeting next month, a government official said.
“A list of all such projects stuck for environment and forest clearances has been drawn by the ministry of roads and highways for consideration of the commitee on investment,” he added.
“Various representations have been sent to the MoEF by both private developers and the NHAI, seeking withdrawal of these MoEF’s conditions to link the two clearances… even banks are wary of lending to these projects,” said an official with a leading road development firm on the condition of anonymity.
The delays have already cast their shadow on two big investments — the GMR group’s 555-km Lishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad project and the GVK Infrastructure group’s Madhya Pradesh project, said sources.
Both the NHAI and the roads and highways ministry have been seeking a modification of the criteria to link environment and forest clearance, said officials.
The two clearances were delinked until the apex court’s order of 2011 in a case involving cement major Lafarge, after which the ministry of environment and forest linked the two clearances to even road-widening projects.
The ministry now gives environment clearance to road projects only after forest clearance is obtained, resulting in inordinate project delays. It is only after NHAI applies for environment clearances that states — through which the road passes — apply for forest clearance.