Millennium Post

Govt removes green speed-breaker, paves way for Rs27K cr roads

New Delhi: Government's approval to delink environment clearance from forest nod has paved the way for launch of 20 stalled road projects involving investment of Rs 27,000 crore.
The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) on Thursday announced that major bottlenecks impeding the growth of highways sector, including de-linking environment clearance from forest nod, have been cleared.
'The CCI nod to delink both the clearances has come as a major relief to the Ministry which is facing problems in award of projects and is a welcome step,' a Road Transport and Highways Ministry official said.
The nod would result in fast-tracking stalled projects in the highways sector including 20 projects entailing investment of Rs 27,000 crore, stuck for long for want of environment clearances, the official said.
The Supreme Court in March had allowed modification in norms to delink environment clearance from forest and now, the official said, a road project can start work once it gets environment approval.
Earlier, forest clearance was mandatory before start of work on stretches falling in forest and non-forest areas. Apart from this the issues resolved include grant of 'Special Exemption or No Objection Certificate under Forest Rights Act, 2006' for strengthening and widening of National Highways projects, specifically pertaining to diversion of protected forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Other major issues include 'treating the strengthening and widening of national highways infrastructure projects differently from new projects and allowing construction of national highways in non-forest areas, as expenditure does not become infructuous in such projects.'
The CCI also gave nod to enhance the ceiling of 4,000 km of four laning in NHDP Phase-IV to 8,000 km on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) (Toll) mode, based on the traffic justification according to the Indian Road Congress code. The government also announced that 4,000 km of road projects were permitted to be taken up for upgradation this mode in 2012-13 and in case of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, it has been decided that the debts due to the lenders will be considered as 'secured' loan.
The highways sector has been battling problems like equity crunch, delays in clearances and land acquisition besides major players abandoning projects mid-way.
Earlier GVK Power and Infrastructure had announced termination of its contract with NHAI for building Rs 7,500 crore major highway Shivpuri-Dewas Expressway in Madhya Pradesh. Another firm GMR Infrastructure had cancelled its contract with the authority for building the Kishangarh-Udaipur- Ahmedabad highway.
The Ministry has set an internal target of awarding 9,000 km of projects in 2013-14 to ensure award of at least 7,300 km to revive the sector against the backdrop of a dismal show last year when award of road projects declined to 1,933 km — much below the target of 9,500 km. PTI
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