The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the environment ministry to relax the clauses in the relevant laws to speed up clearances for road projects. It also told the road ministry that the National Highways Act could be amended to ensure that people whose land is acquired for construction of highways get compensation at par with what is prescribed under the new Land Acquisition Act.
According to sources, principal secretary to PM, Nripendra Misra, road secretary Vijay Chhibber and environment & forests secretary V Rajagopalan met recently and decided to take steps to speed up green clearances pertaining to border states, reserve and protected forests, wildlife areas etc. These would require some changes in law which, the sources said, could be notified in a month.
The road ministry is learnt to have informed the PMO that projects’ awards were facing delays since land owners demanded enhanced compensation as compared to the amount determined under the National Highways Act given the new land Act.
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The idea is to make the process of green clearances consistent, predictable and transparent, sources said. “On its behalf, the forest and environment ministry is taking a quick review of difficulties being faced by road ministry in securing environmental, wildlife and forest clearances for their projects and is soon likely to submit recommendations on specific changes required in the extant guidelines, procedures and mechanism,” an official said.
Already MoEF in the last two months has launched online filing and monitoring of project applications seeking environment and forest clearances. The systems were devised to ensure project clearance in a time bound manner and real-time tracking of files by the project proponents.
In case of border roads, the proposed speeding up of approvals will have to be with the consent of the defence ministry. The road ministry wants the green clearances for construction of roads in areas up to 100 kms from the national border to be automatic. “If this relaxation comes into effect then road ministry will no longer have to approach environment ministry for any green clearance and can begin work on its own.” Currently, defence ministry which builds certain border roads also has to approach environment ministry for clearances.
Recently, minister of state for road transport and highways Krishan Pal Gurjar has said in Parliament that the delays in construction of national highways could be attributed to issue of land acquisition, shifting of utilities and difficulty in securing environment and forest clearances.