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Forest clearance to spur road building projects

Deccan Herald, New Delhi, 25th May, 2013

The Centre has relaxed forest clearance norms for some of the projects which will pave the way for resumption of construction of over 20 major highways worth Rs 30,000 crore soon, in a bid to allay criticism over slow pace in building roads.

The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) nod to delink both the forest and environment clearances has come as a major relief to the Road Transport and Highways ministry, which is facing problems in award of projects, said a ministry official.

The nod would result in fast-tracking stalled projects in the highways sector including 20 projects entailing investment of Rs 30,000 crore, stuck for long for want of environment clearances, the official said.

In March, the Supreme Court had allowed modification in norms to delink environment clearance from forest and now, the official said, a road project could start work once it received environment approval. Earlier, forest clearance was mandatory before the start of work on stretches falling in forest and non-forest areas.

The CCI also gave its nod to enhancing the ceiling of 4,000 km of four-laning in National Highway Development Programmes (NHDP Phase-IV) to 8,000 km on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) (Toll) mode, based on the traffic justification according to the Indian Road Congress code.

The government announced that 4,000 km of road projects were permitted to be taken up for upgradation on Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode in 2012-13 and in the case of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, it had been decided that the debts due to the lenders would be considered as ‘secured’ loan.

The ministry faced strong criticism for its dismal show last year when the award of road projects declined to 1,933 km, much below the target of 9,500 km. The ministry attributed the delay to getting environmental clearances and slowdown in economy.