Long delayed ‘public purpose projects’ in sectors like highways, ports and railways are in for speedy green clearance on the lines of expeditious environmental nod that defence projects have got recently.
Declaring this, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the country needs infrastructure for progress and it can be ensured without compromising on environment as he is working with the slogan “development without destruction”.
He said that after taking over as Minister, he first focussed on speedy clearance of defence projects, regarding which there was a huge pendancy during the previous UPA government.
Javadekar has already given clearance to a number of defence projects and streamlined the process for others like infrastructure development along the China border by empowering the respective states to take decisions.
Next in line for clearance are projects related to highways, roads, ports, railways and linear transmission, he said.
“I want to deliver and deliver on account of development of the country. Therefore, next (after defence projects) we have taken national highways, roads, railways, ports, airports and linear transmission,” the Minister said.
“Such ‘public purpose projects’ are the basic requirement for the progress of the country….These are all public purpose projects and we want to do it passionately with a policy framework for each sector and we are going ahead with it,” he said.
He said that after assuming charge of the Environment Ministry, he had decided that defence will be his first priority. “Unless the country is defended, our environment would not be defended.”
Accusing the UPA government of delaying projects, Javadekar said clearance to an even strategically important defence project like setting up of a Navy infrastructure at Karwar in Karnataka as an alternative to the Mumbai hub was pending for three years.
“It took just 30 minutes of discussion for me to clear it,” he said.
There was a Coast Guard proposal for setting up ‘chowkis’ (posts) meant for strenghtening of the security mechanism along the coastal belt in the wake of November 2008 Mumbai attacks and that too was kept pending for years, he said.
“How can you stop it? The coast guard stations will have to come up on coast, not in a jungle. So you have to sanction it,” he said, adding, “We have sanctioned it. Right from Lakshadweep to all states.”
Emphasising that the Indian military needs to develop infrastructure, Javadekar said his ministry has empowered the states bordering China to give approval for defence projects.
“We decided that border roads will be under ‘general approval’ category and will require no other sanction. So files won’t be coming to me now. It will be at the local level,” the Environment Minister said.
He said resettlement, conservation of nature and afforestation also need to be done but road construction on the border was also a “must” .
He said, “Even the nod for transmission line projects was pending. I do not understand if they are passing through jungle or sanctuaries, we will definitely see whether there is an alternative available but if there is a basic requirement.
Javadekar also said that timelines for environmental and forest clearance are being brought down and processes are being made transparent to shed the image of ‘roadblock’ ministry.