The Modi government -- through its land bill ordinance – may have done away with the consent and social impact assessment clauses for rural infrastructure projects, but states implementing the World Bank-funded rural roads project will still have to adhere to guidelines on social and environmental safeguards.
The government has accepted the World Bank’s condition to assess the social impact of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and consult with the locals before proceeding with its implementation.
This comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his latest Mann Ki Baat radio address, justified doing away with the consent clause for rural roads saying projects for public purposes need not be subject to the clause. An exception, sources said, had been made for the PMGSY for which the World Bank has committed a loan of $1,500 million (Rs9,337 crore) since 2010.
In a letter sent to all states implementing phase two of the project, the rural development ministry last month issued detailed guidelines “to ensure all significant environmental and social safeguard issues are given due consideration during project implementation”.
As per the guidelines, states will have to undertake public consultations, identify environmental and social impacts, document forest clearances and log data on trees cut to make room for the project. They will also have to send monthly reports to the World Bank on issues concerning social and environment safeguards, including consent and forest rights violations.
“The social and environmental management framework, agreed for PMGSY, requires a monthly report from the states as a mechanism for systematic/regular review of key environment and social sustainability parameters. It forms an integral part of the program’s implementation quality assurance efforts,” a World Bank spokesperson told HT.
The project was launched by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in December 2000 as a fully-funded centrally sponsored scheme to provide all-weather road connectivity to rural areas of the country.
It envisages connecting areas in the plains with a population of over 500 people and hilly states, tribal and desert areas with over 250 people.