Cabinet’s Special Cell secures MoEF clearance to Rail projects worth Rs.4823 Cr

NEW DELHI: Stalled road and rail projects worth Rs.6,000 crore are likely to get off the ground soon with the project monitoring group (PMG) in the cabinet secretariate intervening to secure long-pending environmental clearances for them. The group, also known as the special cell, has a workload of stuck highway projects worth more than Rs.40,000 crore, most of which are held up due to tardy land acquisition and environment clearances.

In a meeting on Tuesday, the special cell in the cabinet secretariat resolved environmental nods that had held up two railway projects worth Rs.4823 crore, including the Rs.4251-crore Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project that was to be originally completed in 2006. The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has agreed to give the clearance necessary for Rs.1123-crore Cuttack-Angul highway project in Odisha which was awarded to Ashoka Buildcon.

The developer had walked out of the project this April citing delays in getting environment clearances and non-availability of land. Sources said that while the MoEF had recommended giving the clearance, a formal letter is still pending. The environment clearance is believed to have been formally issued on July 4. “The Project Monitoring Group (PMG) is a dedicated cell for resolving issues that the industry is facing in implementing large projects. Now that it has been constituted and has started functioning, line ministries as well as states are coming on board. They are finding in it a useful institution and are taking it seriously,” said additional secretary Anil Swarup, who heads the special cell.

Over 20 highway projects have been registered for resolution with the group within a month of it being formed under the Prime Minister’s direction to fast track infrastructure projects worth Rs 7 lakh crore. “Now that there’s a designated person who will be coordinating with the concerned authorities at the state level, it makes our job easier,” said a senior road ministry official.

So far, 10 sub-groups have been formed to resolve issues that come under the domain of ‘recipient’ ministries such as environment and forests, coal, railways and the department of financial services in the finance ministry. The problem areas are discussed threadbare for a possible solution at tripartite meetings between the sponsor and recipient ministries, steered by the special cell.