More reports on: Environment

Expansion of existing highways exempted from the purview of Forest Act

26 February 2014

The ministry of road transport and highways will fast-track implementation of widening and strengthening of national highways under the National Highway Development Project (NHDP) following the easing forest and environment clearances for such projects, the ministry informed the Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) on Tuesday.

Projects like strengthening and widening of national highways projects, specifically pertaining to diversion of protected forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, will now get special exemption or no objection certificate under Forest Rights Act, 2006.

While the issue of forest and environment clearances have now been resolved, the ministry said other unresolved issues that fall in the domain of other ministries still remain.

A high level committee under the chairmanship of Dr Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, member of the Planning Commission has been constituted to suggest an amicable solution to these unresolved issues, according to an official release issued on Tuesday.

The government has delinked the grant of environment clearance from forest clearance for linear projects.

Infrastructure projects like strengthening and widening of national highways will also be treated differently from new projects in the case of widening and strengthening of national highways in non-forest areas as expenditure does not become infructuous in such projects.

The government has also enhanced the target of four-laning of highways from 4,000 km in NHDP Phase-IV to 8,000 km, on the `build, operate and transfer (BOT- toll) mode, based on the traffic justification as per the Indian Road Congress (IRC) code and guidelines.

The decision on the mode of execution of the road projects, that is, BOT (toll), BOT (annuity) or engineering procurement and construction (EPC) will be delegated to the ministry in cases where the passenger car unit (PCU) falls between 5,000 and 10,000   upgradation of about 4,000 km of road projects had been permitted to be taken up on EPC basis in the year 2012-13.

In case of public-private partnership (PPP) projects, the debts due to the lenders will be considered as ''secured'' loan, the release added.

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