The environment ministry is facing heat from within the government for delaying key infrastructure projects in the country.
Road transport and highways minister CP Joshi on May 21 shot off a letter to his counterpart in the environment ministry, Jayanti Natarajan, blaming her ministry for the delay in giving environment/forest clearance to 16 crucial highway projects.Of the projects that are yet to be granted a formal environmental clearance, two are located in UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s pocket borough, Rae Bareily. They are the Lucknow-Rae Bareily section of NH-24 B and Rae Bareily-Allahabad section of NH-24B.
Besides preventing the projects from taking off, the delay is also likely to come in the way of the road ministry meeting its ambitious target of constructing 20 km of road per day, Joshi wrote. “Earlier, The Prime Minister had announced that the ministry would achieve the target of 20 km a day for roads. For this, the pace of award of contracts has been accelerated… it has become urgent that the environment/forest clearance is expedited, so the works can start and the target achieved.”
The 16 projects, awarded to private concessionaires, have already been issued letters of acceptance by the National Highways Authority of India. However, in the absence of environment clearances, none of the projects have taken off.
Road ministry officials say that such delays cause cost and time overruns, auguring badly for the sector as well as public-private partnerships (PPPs). “In PPP projects, environment clearance is a condition precedent in the concession agreement. Therefore, environment clearance is mandatory prior to the declaration of the appointed date and initiation of construction activity,” the road minister wrote.
In 2009, the road ministry had set an ambitious target of constructing 20 km of road per day. However, the goal is yet to be achieved.