Gadkari seeks forest clearance for infra projects, nudges ministries !!

New Delhi: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the ‘group on infrastructure’ with railway minister Piyush Goyal and environment minister Prakash Javadekar seeking to expedite clearances for several pending highway and infrastructure projects.

The road transport and highways minister raised the issue of outstanding forest clearance for 187 highway projects. It was also noted that many of the projects had not yet applied for Stage II forest clearance. Environment minister Javadekar was asked to direct the forest officers posted in states to follow and implement the circulars and orders issued by the environment ministry.

“Special High powered committees on forest issues can be conducted as is being done in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh. It was felt that its step will remove many hindrances in the way of infrastructure projects, which will save both time and money,” the transport ministry said. A major issue before infrastructure projects is tree cutting, however, there are ambiguities over inclusion of certain local breeds of shrubs and plants in forest cover, the ministry noted.

 “An 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. In Delhi, an ambitious project monitored by PMO, the Dwarka Expressway, is facing such 1939 Babool shrubs in a total of 6364 trees. It was pointed out that many States like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh do not cover this shrub in land revenue code as a tree,” it said.

The meeting was also attended by the railway board chairman, senior officers of the ministries of road transport, power environment and forests, NHAI and representatives from the state governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

Chairman railway board, director general forests and The director general roads have been directed to meet every month to expedite work on the concerned projects. It was stressed in the meeting that level crossings on National Highways need to be removed, as they constitute major accident spots. It was pointed out that while their designs had been approved at 167 locations, but work has not begun as yet.

“MoUs were signed in this respect over the 5 years ago, and there is a need to improve performance. In this direction, it was agreed to monitor the projects under Setubharatam programme on a monthly basis. It also was underlined that 30 road projects are pending with Railways. However, the railway minister assured to resolve these within two days,” the ministry said.

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