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Amidst about 350 highways projects stuck for green nods, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to approach the Supreme Court against environment ministry seeking clarifications on the issue.
"We will approach the Supreme Court seeking clarification in regard to forest clearance as a number of our projects including major ones are stuck for forest clearances," a top NHAI official said. The development follows infrastructure major GMR, this week, announcing exit from prestigious Rs 7,500 crore Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad project and 21 other projects - of worth over Rs 1,000 crore each facing delays in forest clearances after getting environment nod.
Meanwhile, sources said that another infrastructure major GVK Group too has threatened to pull out from the 330-km long Shivpuri-Dewas highway in Madhya Pradesh, citing delays in environmental clearances. The official said NHAI would seek delinking of forest and environment clearances as was the practice earlier as Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF) pleads that norms were in accordance with a Supreme Court judgement.
The official added that the Supreme Court in 2011 had allowed cement major Lafarge to mine limestone in the forests of Meghalaya and had asked the government to make an interim arrangement for forest clearance till a national environment regulator was set up. Earlier NHAI Board too has approved the plan to approach the apex court in the matter including seeking relief from getting a no objection certificate from gram panchayats under the Forest Rights Act.
The government has recently admitted that as many as 347 road projects including those pertaining to Border Road Organisation, mostly on build, operate and transfer (BOT) mode were are awaiting green clearances. It had said that green hurdles have delayed 21 major highways projects on crucial sections like Ahmedabad-Vadodara, Delhi-Agra and Lucknow-Raibareli were facing delays.
The delay is mainly on account of linking the environment clearance with forest clearance and condition of obtaining no objection certificate from Gram Sabha of the concerned village under the Forest Rights Act. For road projects, the environment ministry gives environmental clearances only after forest clearances are obtained.
The official said that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Ministry (MoRTH) and NHAI had drawn the attention of the MoEF in this regard umpteen times but to of no avail.
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