The government’s bid to exempt application of environmental laws on infrastructure projects around border areas has faced stiff resistance from wild life enthusiasts and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan.
Non-official members of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) have sought environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s clarification regarding defence ministry’s move to get a bill exempting all infrastructure projects from forest and wildlife provisions.
Because of this, the defence ministry believes key road and other infrastructure projects are getting delayed, thereby giving China the advantage, along the border. China’s road infrastructure has almost reached Indian borders in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir, where as the same is not true for India.
To overcome the delay, the defence ministry is considering legislation to allow it freedom from forest and wildlife provisions within 50 kms of the border. The proposed bill is at a nascent stage, a government official said.
There are at least five tiger reserves, three elephant corridors, home of snow leopards and many several endangered birds on the Indo-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh in east.
Seeking the ministry’s clarification on the issue, a letter of NBWL members to Natarajan said, “We understand that the government is looking to exempt all strategic roads within 50km of the international border or the line of actual control (LAC),”
Natarajan told Hindustan Times that the ministry has rejected exemption of forest and wildlife provisions for strategic border projects.
“I will insist on necessary forest and wildlife provisions but will be happy to consider them on a priority for clearance,” she said, while reacting to the letter.
The standing committee of NBWL is meeting on Wednesday in New Delhi and will discuss some of the border road projects.
Apart from it, the other projects listed include two mining projects from Goa, expansion of a steel plant and minor irrigation project in Maharashtra and extraction of bamboo from two national parks in Gujarat.
Defence ministry has revived Border Infrastructure Bill to get exemption from forest and wildlife provisions to development strategic road projects. Of the 73 key road projects, the defence ministry has been able to get forest and wildlife approval only for 16 projects in recent years.
Environment ministry and wild-lifers are opposing the Bill saying country’s best forest and wildlife habitats are near Indo-China border. Destroying ecology will not improve defence preparedness, they claimed.