A key issue discussed in the meeting was outstanding forest clearance for 187 highway projects.
Top officials from the railway, road transport and highways ministry, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) were also present at the meeting.
“It was also noted that many projects had not yet applied for Stage II forest clearance. The concerned officers were directed to initiate the process for the same immediately,” a statement issued by the highways ministry said.
The in-principle agreement and formal approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 are commonly referred to as stage-I and stage-II approvals.
A major issue before infrastructure projects is tree cutting, however, there are ambiguities over inclusion of certain local breeds of shrubs and plants in forest cover,the statement said.
An example of Babool or Kikar was cited in the meeting. “This being an exotic Arabian shrub, its inclusion in the definition of trees is causing hindrance while considering forest clearance for several projects,” the statement said.
In Delhi, an ambitious project monitored by PMO, the Dwarka Expressway, is facing such 1939 Babool shrubs in a total of 6364 trees.
Around 30 road projects pending with the railway ministry were also taken up, and the railway minister has assured to have these projects cleared in two days’ time.
Gadkari also called for a joint meeting to be held between Chairman Railway Board, Director General Forests and Director General Roads every month to resolve pending inter-ministerial issues.
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