The Centre on Tuesday decided to empower states to give forest and mining clearances for road projects, a move set to give stalled highway projects worth Rs. 50,000 crore a big push.
Government officials said some of the big ticket projects that would benefit includes the Rs. 2,848 crore six-lane Varanasi-Aurangabad stretch, Rs. 2,016 crore six-lane Dhankuni-Kharagpur stretch in West Bengal, Rs. 2,388 crore Beawar-Pali-Pindwara stretch and Rs. 1,008 crore four-lane Sambalpur-Baragarh stretch in Orissa among others.
At an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by highways minister Nitin Gadkari, it was decided that states would soon be able to give permission for mining of sand from dry river beds spread up to 20 hectares. Currently, this limit was five hectares beyond which projects had to be cleared by the Centre. The move would help in addressing the shortage of raw material and helping in fast implementation of projects.
The meeting was also attended by railways minister DV Sadananda Gowda and environment minister Prakash Javadekar.
“It was also proposed that states will be empowered to clear highway projects spread in forest areas of up to 40 hectare. Till now such projects had to be cleared by the Centre which more often than not resulted in delays. So far, 80% projects belonged to this category,” said a government official who attended the meeting.
The railways ministry on its part decided that it will waive off land-lease agreement, maintenance and supervision charges that it levies on highway projects coming up on railway land. “Till now, the railways have taken about Rs. 800 crore for 350 highway projects. The ministry has now agreed to a reciprocal agreement where both highways and railways ministry won’t levy any charge on each other,” the official said.