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Govt relaxes forest rule for infra projects in Naxal areas

In such cases,the state governments themselves would be authorised to grant approvals and applications need not be sent to the Union Environment Ministry for approval

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi |
April 29, 2011 1:25:42 am

Making further concessions for creating public infrastructure in Naxalite areas,the government on Thursday ordered that projects like building of roads,schools or hospitals on forest land would not require clearance under the Forest Conservation Act,1980 as long as the total forest land to be diverted is not more than five hectares.

In such cases,the state governments themselves would be authorised to grant approvals and applications need not be sent to the Union Environment Ministry for approval.

Only recently,the Environment Ministry had raised this ceiling from one hectare to two hectares. However,a number of chief ministers wrote to Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh asking for further relaxation of the provisions of FCA in the Naxalite areas.

Ramesh was given a detailed presentation on this issue by the Maharashtra government during his visit to Gadchiroli district in the state earlier this week. Home Minister P Chidambaram,Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Planning Commission Member Secretary Sudha Pillai have also spoken in favour of an upward revision of this ceiling.

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“I am now convinced that we should allow state governments the flexibility up to five hectares to clear public infrastructure projects without applying for clearance under the FCA,1980,” Ramesh said.

The changed provisions would apply in the 60 districts worst affected by Left-wing extremism as identified by the Planning Commission and the Home Ministry. Most of these districts fall in remote and dense forest areas with little presence of government agencies.

Thursday’s decision will help in removing procedural bottlenecks in implementing a large number of projects like building of police stations,irrigation facilities,electrical or communication lines,technical institutes or skill development centres,power sub-stations,rural roads or communication posts.

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