Maharashtra seeks fast-track clearance of infra projects

Written by Sanjay Jog | Mumbai | Updated: Dec 31 2007, 05:17am hrs
The Congress-led government in Maharashtra has made a strong argument in favour of the Centre devising a mechanism for fast- track clearance of various infrastructure projects, especially in the state's Naxal-infested areas. Besides, the state has also taken up the issue of increasing the availability of viability gap funding for states for public-private partnership (PPP) projects. As far as the development of Mumbai as an international financial centre is concerned, the state wants the Centre to accord it the highest priority.

These demands were put forward by Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh at the 54th meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) held in Delhi recently. The Maharashtra government, which has proposed an outlay of Rs 1,27,538 crore for the 11th Plan, is of the view that the Centre should revisit its existing procedures for according forest, environmental and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearances. In fact, the state argued that many infrastructure projects that it has planned in the fast-growing Mumbai Metropolitan Region should be given forest, environmental and CRZ approvals expeditiously.

Deshmukh, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs statement on tackling Naxalism, touched upon the present slow infrastructure development in Naxal-infested districts. He said, in view of thick forest cover in Naxalite-affected Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Bhandara districts, practically all irrigation projects were held up on account of forest clearance. As many as 37 major and medium irrigation projects in the Vidharbha are held up and await forest and environment clearance.

A senior state government functionary told FE, The state has made a strong pitch for devising a special mechanism for fast-track clearance of such projects as it will help in improving the economic conditions of the population in the region as wells meeting the challenge of Naxal activity. The government has already firmed up plans for implementation of PPP projects worth Rs 25,000 crore during the Plan. It has submitted that the total funds earmarked for viability gap funding in the Union Budget would have to be increased to facilitate more such projects.

Also, it has called for early approval for phase II of the Rs 4,500 crore Mumbai Urban Transport Project II.