With Eye on China, Modi Government to Fast-Track Border Roads

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New Delhi:  Much-needed roads along the border with China and defense projects that are vital for the army will be fast-tracked for environmental clearances, the Narendra Modi government has decided. Environmental reviews and sanctions will be fast-tracked through a new series of guidelines that will be revealed within a month.

"Delays in Defence projects were due to case-by-case decision-making process. We'll make Policy laid decisions. Will put Policies in place," tweeted Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who met this morning with officials from the Defence Ministry. They briefed him on projects that have been held up because environmental permissions are yet to be given. The minister also tweeted, "We won't compromise on environment protection."  

According to sources, the minister indicated that faster clearances will be given for border roads and strategic defense projects that are to be built within 100 kms from the Line of Actual Control, the de-facto border with China.

The Army's ambitious plans to build several strategic roads have been hampered by the slow-moving bureaucracy in the Environment Ministry. 

Forest and wildlife clearances are creating huge hurdles for defense projects in border areas. These are part of the Forest Conservation Rules 2003 that prescribe timelines for clearance of proposals at the state and Central government levels. It takes 90 days to process at the state government level and 60 days at the Central level for border roads along the Indo-China border and projects of national security importance. But the timelines have never been followed.

Now the proposal is to empower state governments to clear these projects. 

80 strategic roads all along the northern borders (China) had been held up for lack of environmental clearance.

Another 5,000 acre of land -- that the Indian Army and Air Force require for infrastructure needed to support the new Mountain Strike Corps in Eastern Sector - had also been held up.

These projects are now expected to be cleared expeditiously under the new policy that the ministry will roll out in the next one month.

The Environment Ministry has also cleared a six-year-old proposal to install a radar station at Narcondam island in the Andaman Nicobar Command.  This project was listed as a priority by armed forces because China has set up a listening post or a base to intercept electronic communications for use by intelligence agencies in the Coco Islands of Myanmar, just north of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


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