In wake of several linear projects, including construction of roads and laying of pipelines, getting delayed due to want of forest clearance, the ministry of environment and forest has decided to amend its guidelines to allow initiation of such projects without such approvals.
The proposed amendment, however, states that work on linear projects involving use of forest and non-forest land could start pending forest clearance on the condition the agency gives an alternative alignment. In case, approval for diversion of forest land is declined, the agency should be in a position to execute the project on the alternate alignment identified to bypass the forest land.
The Supreme Court’s forest bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam permitted the environment ministry to amend the guidelines and issue notification to implement it.
Counsel for the ministry Haris Beeran said: “At present two clearances are required – one environment and the second forest – for projects meant to come up on both non-forest and forest areas. Environment clearance is given at the first stage. With the amendment, projects on non-forest areas can start immediately after this approval and need not wait for forest clearance. However, details of all such stretches along with alternate alignments identified to bypass the forest land should be explicitly provided in the proposal seeking forest approval.”
The ministry’s move comes in the backdrop of National Highway Authority of India’s (NHAI) application before the SC complaining that the delay on account of forest clearance had delayed its 21 road projects. The NHAI claimed forest clearance of projects was taking over two years.