National Highways_Environment Clearance_ProjectsMonitor

The four and six laning of the Goa-Karnataka border-Kundapur section of NH-66 is still awaiting environment clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The NHAI project, under NHDP Phase-IV, is being implemented on DBFOT pattern.

The BOT-Toll project was awarded to IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd at an estimated cost of Rs.2,600 crore in August 2012, more than a year ago. The concession agreement was signed by the company through a wholly-owned subsidiary, IRB Westcoast Tollway Pvt. Ltd with NHAI in March this year. Since then, however, the project is awaiting environment clearance.

The other projects which are in pipeline for environment clearance include widening of Mahulia-Kharagpur section, starting from km 277.500 of NH-33 in Jharkhand to km 129.600 of NH-06 in West Bengal; upgradation of existing carriageway of Rajasthan border (km 0.000) to Fatehpur-Salasar (km 154.141) section of NH-65 in Rajasthan; and upgradation of existing two lanes to four lanes of Birmitrapur-Barkot-Palhara section from km 211.500 to km 337.300 of NH-23 in Odisha.

All these four PPP projects, which are being funded privately, are in limbo due to lack of clearances in spite of the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The environment ministry has resolved most of the bottlenecks such as special exemption or NOC under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and for diversion of protected forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The ministry has also delinked the grant of environment clearance from forest clearance for linear projects and treated the strengthening and widening of national highway projects differently from the new projects by allowing construction in non-forest areas.

The ministry has, thus, streamlined the process for obtaining environment and forest clearances for road projects. Other than the above four projects, the ministry has cleared all the other projects of the previous years.

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