As many as 187 highway projects are held up for want of forest clearance in India — an issue the Centre took up to resolve on Tuesday.
A Group of Ministers on Infrastructure, chaired by Transport, Highways and MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari, has decided that senior officials of ministries such as Road Transport and Highways, Railways, and Environment and Forests would meet every month to thrash out such issues instead of relying on just inter-department letters.
A major issue before infrastructure projects has been found to be tree-cutting, in which there are reportedly ambiguities over inclusion of certain local breeds of shrubs and plants in forest cover, the government said in a statement. It said the example of babool or kikar was presented in the meeting.
“This being an exotic Arabian shrub, its inclusion in the definition of trees is causing hindrance while considering forest clearance for several projects,” the statement said. “In Delhi, an ambitious project monitored by the PMO, the Dwarka Expressway, is facing 1,939 Babool shrubs in a total of 6,364 trees. It was pointed out that many states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh do not cover this shrub in land revenue code as tree.”
Besides Gadkari, Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways V K Singh were part of the meeting.
It was noted in the meeting that many projects had not yet applied for stage-II forest clearance; officers concerned were directed to initiate the process immediately. It was underlined that 30 road projects are pending with Railways. Goyal “assured to resolve these within two days”, the government stated.
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