The National Highways Authority of India has asked the environment ministry to clear 25 road projects that are stuck for want of approvals.
“We have written to the environment ministry on January 12, asking them to clear 25 of our projects covering 2,800 km. The environment ministry is saying that they have delinked the environmental and forest clearances for linear projects. If that is the case, all these projects should get approval,” said a senior NHAI official.
The official added that the projects have got environmental clearance but have hit a hurdle on the forest clearance.
Environmental clearance was delinked from forest clearance until the apex court’s 2011 order in the case involving Lafarge, which asked the Centre to make an interim arrangement for forest clearance until a national environment regulator was set up.
Following the Lafarge order, which linked environmental and forest clearances, the environment ministry linked the two clearances even for linear projects that include roads, railways and laying of power transmission lines.
NHAI and the environment ministry are on opposite sides over the issue of delay in environmental clearances. The differences came to light after GMR Infrastructure, last month, terminated the concession agreement with NHAI for the 555-km Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad project due to delay in environmental clearances.
Sensing an impact on their projects due to the court order, NHAI has been demanding exemption from it for projects involving widening of national highways up to the standard right of way (i.e 60 m).
After the GMR episode, NHAI, armed with an order from the Prime Ministers Office, moved the Supreme Court asking for delinking of forest clearances from environmental clearances for linear projects.