New Delhi, July 7 (PTI) Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday chaired a high-level meeting to discuss various hurdles coming in the way of execution of pending infrastructure projects, including those of highways.
The meeting prominently took up a major issue like forest clearance being sought for as many as 187 highway projects.
Apart from Gadkari, who chaired the meeting of a Group on Infrastructure through video conference, Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways V K Singh also participated in the deliberation.
It was unanimously decided to hold joint monthly meetings to resolve issues obstructing projects.
'The meeting considered several issues, in respect of pending infrastructure projects, for resolution. A major issue raised in the meeting pertained top outstanding forest clearance for 187 highway projects,' the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said in a statement.
It was also noted in the meeting that many projects had not yet applied for stage-II forest clearance and the concerned officers were directed to initiate the process for the same immediately.
During the meeting, it was underlined that 30 road projects are pending with Railways. However, Goyal 'assured to resolve these within two days', the statement said.
To iron out bottlenecks impeding infrastructure projects including 187 highway projects stuck for forest clearances, a high level meeting chaired by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari resolved to expedite these besides addressing issues with regard to 30 road projects pending with railways within two days, the government said on Tuesday.
The ministers also took note of a need to remove level crossings on National Highways, in view of the fact that they constitute major accident spots.
It was pointed out that while their designs had been approved at 167 locations, but the work has not yet started.
Agreements were signed in this respect over 5 years ago, and there is need to improve performance, the statement said.
'In this direction, it was agreed to monitor the projects under Setubharatam programme on monthly basis,' the statement said.
It was also discussed that 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, adding that the example of Babool or Kikar was presented 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. In Delhi, an ambitious project monitored by PMO, the Dwarka Expressway, is facing such 1,939 Babool shrubs in a total of 6,364 trees. It was pointed out that many states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh do not cover this shrub in land revenue code as tree,' the statement said.
Gadkari, who also holds the MSME portfolio, was quoted in the statement as saying that instead of wasting time and energy on written communications, it is always worthy to sit together and thrash out issues before each other.
The minister directed for a joint meeting to be held every month among Chairman Railway Board, Director General Forests and Director General Roads.
Environment Minister Javadekar was requested to direct the forest officers posted in states to follow and implement the circulars and orders issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests, the statement said.
'Special High Powered committees on forest issues can be conducted as is being done in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh. It was felt that this step will remove many hindrances in the way of infrastructure projects, which will save both time and money,' it said.
Railways Minister Goyal lauded the idea of this meeting and requested Gadkari to guide the Group on Infrastructure on the steps to improve citizen's cause.
He said, railway and highway projects should ideally run parallel to each other, however, due to difference in gradients, they sometimes part away. 'But, together these two bodies can build a number of projects.' MoS Highways Singh said the infra sector is the backbone of the economy and its speed decides the speed of others sectors.
He called upon infra professionals to improve their procedures to enhance the pace of their projects.
Singh opined that railways and highways sectors should make combined projects to save cost and to improve usability.
Senior officers of the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways, Railways, Power, Environment and Forests, Railway Board, NHAI and representatives from the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka attended the virtual meeting. PTI NAM MKJ