The decision by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to move the Supreme Court seeking exemption for delinking environment and forest approvals for road projects had the approval of the Prime Ministers Office (PMO), it has emerged.
Government sources in the know say that the PMO’s approval came in a meeting held on October 31, 2012.
The meeting was chaired by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Pulok Chatterji and attended by representatives from NHAI, and the ministries of road transport, environment and law.
“It was decided in the meeting that exemption on delinking environment and forest clearances for linear projects should be sought from the Supreme Court. The environment ministry representatives said that they would not like to move the petition for exemption, since they are a protector ministry,” a source said.
Linear projects include roads, railways and laying of power lines.
“It was then decided that NHAI or the road transport ministry can move the Supreme Court and seek exemption,” the source added. The decision to move the apex court would need the approval of the law ministry.
Subsequently, NHAI got the law ministry’s approval to move the court in the second week of November.
The exemption was to be sought on a court order in April 2011 that linked environment and forest clearances and mandated that environmental clearance will not be issued unless forest clearance is approved. This has led to huge delay in getting environmental approval for roads projects and GMR has terminated the concession agreement with NHAI for the 555 km Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad project. The company had won the contract in July 2011 and the project did not receive environment clearance 16 months after application.