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Let us exempt border projects from environmental nod: HM

Concerned over the delay in strategic border projects, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has suggested exemption of environment clearance given to such projects falling within 100 km from International Border, Line of Actual Control and Line of Control. He said that there is a need to deal with the issue of delay in according environment, forest and wildlife clearances in a comprehensive manner.

‘All strategic border projects falling within 100 km from IB, LAC and LoC may be fully exempted from obtaining environment/ forest/ wildlife clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the State/ Union Territory governments,’ Singh wrote to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. The strategic border projects include border roads, fencing, border out posts, floodlighting, surveillance infrastructure and power infrastructure.

The Home Minister said that all executing agencies like CPWD and public sector undertakings engaged in border infrastructure work of the ministries of Home Affairs and Defence may be treated on par with Border Roads Organisation in respect of environment, forest and wildlife clearances.

The suggestions were part of the recommendations of an inter-ministerial group set up by the Home Ministry on how to get quick and time bound environment, forest and wildlife clearances as well as suggest any other dispensation or institutional mechanism needed for this.

Referring to the issue of compensatory afforestation raised by the inter-ministerial group, Singh said that since substantial time is lost in identification of suitable land for compensatory afforestation, it is proposed that the MoEF in consultation with states and UTs may create land banks both at the central and the state/ UT level by identifying patches of land or degraded forests.

He said a separate meeting of the National Wild Life Board may be held to consider border, security infrastructure proposals of the Home and Defence ministries in a time-bound manner to avoid delays.

‘It is requested that the proposals mentioned above may be considered for approval and issue of necessary notification/ instructions for early completion of time bound border infrastructure projects,’ the Home Minister wrote.

Highlighting the issue of compensatory afforestation, as raised by the inter-ministerial group, he said that the forest cover of states/ UTs varies from 3.52 per cent of the geographical area in Punjab to 90.33 per cent in Mizoram. ‘Since diversion of forest land for non-forest use is more common in states/ UTs which have large forest cover, commensurate compensatory afforestation is being carried out in these states/ UTs,’ he said.

Singh said this has led to a situation that some states or UTs like Mizoram which are already rich in forest cover do not have land for compensatory afforestation which is leading to an inordinate delay in getting clearances under the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, whereas in states/ UTs having little forest cover, instances of diversion of forest land for non-forest use are less common and these states/UTs do not get the benefit of compensatory afforestation scheme.

‘In this context, I feel that there is a need for creating a land bank, both at the national as well as the state/ UT level in consultation with all the states/ UTs so that the scheme of compensatory afforestation can be transferred from one state/ UT to another state/ UT depending upon the availability of land,’ he said.
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