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Mandatory forest clearance may slow down projects

delhi Updated: Sep 11, 2011 22:48 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times
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The environment ministry's recent directive that all infrastructure projects that pass through forest land have to secure both forest and environment clearance before work starts, has upset another infrastructure ministry.

AK Upadhyay, road transport secretary, has shot off a letter to his counterpart in the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), asking to delink forest clearance from environment clearance.

Not doing so, according to the road ministry, could considerably delay ongoing as well as all new road and highway projects.

Prior to the MoEF's new policy, infrastructure ministries could start work on a project soon after obtaining environment clearance. Forest clearance was taken at a later stage before beginning work on forest land.

Presently, 13 highway projects are pending with the environment ministry for forest and wildlife clearance. A majority of these projects are in MP, Assam, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Goa.

Upadhyay's letter is not the first one after the new directive was notified in April. In June, the power secretary, citing delay in power projects, had written a similar letter to the environment ministry, asking for withdrawal of the directive.

Long wait
Ministry sources said that on an average it takes 12 to 15 months to get environment clearance, while obtaining forest clearance takes upto two years.

"There is a considerable delay in getting forest and wildlife clearance in some projects.The delay is mainly at state level, where processing the proposal takes long. It would be worthwhile to consider the widening projects differently from the new projects in respect of clearance," the road secretary's letter states.

Upadhyay has said that in road-widening or upgradation projects, the environment ministry should allow activities in non-forest area.

Since April, the ministry has awarded 11 highway projects. The ministry also intends to award 60 projects before March 2012.