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Nitin Gadkari chairs the Group on Infrastructure meeting

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari chaired a Group on Infrastructure meeting in New Delhi today via webcast. Union Minister for Railways and CommercePiyushGoyal, Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Information & Broadcasting and Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises Prakash Javadekar, and Union Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways Gen (Retd) V K Singh participated in the meeting.

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. It was also noted that many projects had not yet applied for Stage II forest clearance. The concerned officers were directed to initiate the process for the same immediately.

It was stressed in the meeting that level crossings on National Highways need to be removed, as 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. MoUs were signed in this respect over 5 years ago, and there is need to improve performance.  In this direction, it was agreed to monitor the projects under Setubharatam programme on monthly basis. It also was underlined that 30 road projects are pending with Railways. However, the Railway Minister assured to resolve these within two days.

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. An 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 1939 Babool shrubs in a total of 6364 trees. It was pointed out that many States like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh do not cover this shrub in land revenue code as tree.

Gadkari expressed his satisfaction over progress on outstanding issues by way of meetings between senior level officers of various ministries. He said, he always feels that instead of wasting time and energy on written communications, it is always worthy to sit together and thrash out issues before each other. He directed that henceforth a joint meeting be held between Chairman Railway Board, Director General Forests and Director General Roads. He said, a meeting every month will solve many issues.