The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has urged the Supreme Court to direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to dispense with the mandatory approvals from gram sabhas for widening of national highways.
''Due to the long and cumbersome process of obtaining NOCs from all the gram sabhas of affected villages, which delays the forest clearance, even obtaining environmental clearance has become very difficult,'' the NHAI said in its plea to the apex court.
Frustrated by inordinate delays of the MoEF in granting clearances for expanding existing stretches of national highways, and concerned over the exit of leading companies from highway projects, the NHAI decided to approach the Supreme Court, seeking relief from such clearances.
In November, an inter-ministerial committee headed by the law secretary had told the MoEF to approach the Supreme Court seeking modification of its guidelines and the delinking of environment clearance and forest clearance for road projects.
However, when the MoEF did not move the court, the NHAI appealed to the apex court, seeking its intervention and the delinking of the environmental clearance and the forest clearance.
The NHAI informed the court that 22 projects worth over Rs20,000 crore had been delayed because of the new rule that mandates obtaining forest clearances before environmental clearance.