After fast-tracking clearances for a host of oil exploration and power projects, the government has now set its sight on infrastructure development projects in border areas that have remained neglected due to the complex nature of clearances required.
The Prime Minister-headed cabinet committee on investment (CCI) is likely to take up several projects of power sector PSUs such as NHPC, NTPC, Powergrid, SJVNL besides government agencies such as Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and railways for priority clearance. This is to ensure that infrastructure development in sensitive border areas keeps pace with strategic requirements of the region while investment flows help these under developed regions to prosper.
Sources said the power ministry has already forwarded a list of close to 20 projects in border areas that are languishing for want of clearances for last six to seven years.
The empowered committee on Border Infrastructure headed by cabinet secretary in May this year discussed BRO and railway projects and filtered out projects that need intervention at the topmost level for consideration of the CCI.
In fact, the CCI could also direct the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to ease clearance process by clubbing the appraisal process of the forest advisory committee, expert appraisal committee and the Standing Committee of National Board to curtail delays.
Besides, the defence ministry and BRO may be asked to give directions to their field units dealing with infra projects for expeditious submission of compliance report to MoEF.
A proposal to allow BRO to start work on a project after getting stage-I forest clearance would also be taken up while the agency may be allowed to get stage-II clearance for projects quickly if the MoEF doesn't impose specific conditions.
“Fast tracking of clearance for border infrastructure is of strategic importance as neighbouring countries such as China are building projects near these sensitive areas at a rapid pace and we have to keep pace with these developments” said a government official privy to the development.
“Most of these border projects face delays on account of environment and forest clearance while a few need a nod from the defence ministry. These cannot move quickly unless there is intervention from the top,” the official added.
CCI's role in these projects is considered important as it has already facilitated progress on stuck projects in the oil and gas sector. The CCI has cleared projects worth Rs 25,126 that were delayed due to defence ministry clearance.
The process to facilitate border infrastructure is expected to benefit Kotli Behl hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand, Dibang 3000 MW project in Arunachal, Tawang 800 MW project in Arunachal Pradesh, Tipalmukh power project in Manipur and Mizoram, Silchar-Melriat 400 KV D/C line in Mizoram being implemented by PowerGrid, NHPC's 66 MW Loktak hydro electric project, SJVNL's 60 MW Naitwar Mori project in Uttarakhand, NTPC's Kolodyne II project in Mizoram.
“The process is being simplified to redress the situation arising out of poor road connectivity which has hampered the operational capability of the Border Guarding Forces deployed along the India-China border. The government had decided to undertake phase-wise construction of 27 roads,” added an environment ministry official.
Out of 27 roads, 25 roads have been final green nods. Approval in principle has been obtained for one road and compliance report submitted for the same.
Besides, private sector projects - 680 MW Attunli Hydro Electric Project and 3097 MW Etalin Hydro Electric project - located in Arunachal Pradesh close to the the border with China (Tibet) may also be considered by the CCI.
In addition, decisions could also be taken to fast-track projects such as the Indo-Bangladesh border road passing through Dampa Tiger reserve in Mizoram and Gandhuli-Hazirpur-Santhalpur road in Gujarat. These projects face issues of clearance from board for wildlife while the Gujarat project needs revised alignment. Another road project along Indo-China border flag hill – Dokala is awaiting forest clearance and formal nod from National Board for Wildlife.
For railways, the decisions to facilitate progress on strategic railway lines such as the proposed Jammu-Poonch (via Rajauri) new line, Missamari-Tawang line, Murkongselek-Pasighat-Tezurupai line, Jodhpur-Jaisalmer line, doubling among a list of over 25 projects.