NEW DELHI: The ministries of highways and railways have sought a smoother deforestation process for linear projects for their faster execution. In two different presentations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while the Highways Ministry has called for “automatic portal-based” forest clearance for linear projects, the railways have proposed to do away with mine clearance for such projects.
The two ministries have set the high target for the development of highways and railways. They referred to recently circulated proposals to amend the law on forest conservation. On March 13, TOI reported on the government’s draft note on the amendment to the central law proposed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. He referred to the proposal to delete the provision relating to the request for prior forestry approval for strategic and security projects, and to allow States to grant such authorizations to avoid any delay.
Sources in government said the main cause of the delay in obtaining deforestation for linear projects like NH is the identification of land for compensatory reforestation. They added that a proposal had already been sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to give the green light to linear projects once the relevant department deposits the money for afforestation.
The Ministry of Railways has set a target to complete 64 coal and port connectivity projects by March 2024 and the Ministry of Roads plans to expand 36,500 km of national roads over the next three years. The delay in deforestation has been one of the main reasons for blocking road and rail infrastructure projects.
At the same time, sources said the prime minister asked transport infrastructure ministries to plan and work together, especially when building bridges and tunnels for integrated planning and investment savings. Officials said integrated planning in capital-intensive projects such as bridges and tunnels is also crucial to accelerate infrastructure development and improve multimodal connectivity.
Speaking at an event in Manipur on Monday, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari urged the state government to speed up deforestation to speed up highway construction. In the past, he has urged other states to do so in earnest.

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