NHAI moves SC over long delays in environment clearances

NHAI moves SC over long delays in environment clearancesThe National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court seeking a "clarification/modification" of the 2011 judgment in which environment ministry had been asked to introduce a new set of criteria.

NHAI alleges that the environment ministry's "arbitrary" norms have stalled more than twenty highway projects worth hundreds of crores of rupees.

In the filed plea, NHAI Chief General Manager RD Sharma said, "Failure to obtain the environment clearance (EC)... results in the projects getting delayed indefinitely, which leads to disputes... and can even lead to termination of the contracts."

The development follows infrastructure giant GMR's decision to terminate its contract with NHAI for the six-laning of the Kishangarh-Ahmedabad expressway project. GMR terminated the contract due to long delays in requisite environmental clearances.

NHAI is under the ministry of road transport & highways, which is by senior Congress leader C. P. Joshi; while the environment ministry is headed by his party colleague Jayanthi Natarajan.

NHAI wants the environment ministry to make two key changes. One is that the environment ministry delinks forest and environment clearances for road projects. Second, the Forest Rights Act should not apply to land on a highway's two sides.