Environment minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said the government will evolve “policy-based solutions” for pending environment clearances, and that the delay in clearances for defence projects has been due to their case-by-case consideration. He also said forest clearances along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the working boundary line between India and China, will be given by the state government concerned. Forest and wildlife clearances are creating huge hurdles for defence projects on the border. Over 80 strategic roads all along the northern borders with China had been held up for lack of green clearance. The environment ministry’s move to fast-track defence projects will not only boost defence preparedness against China but also expedite social and economic integration of the Northeast with the rest of India.
Around 6,000km of critical road stretches which were stuck can now be expedited. In fact, the defence ministry has also been working on a legislation to ensure exemption of strategically significant projects—especially those along the LAC—from green regulations that may be hampering progress. These are heartening developments that should be built upon in coming days. The ministry had earlier given its go-ahead to set up a radar station at Narcondam in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The project was pending for long despite repeated requests from the defence establishment which wanted to install the radar at the strategic location in view of suspected Chinese presence and “listening post” on nearby Coco Island. Though Coco Island in the Bay of Bengal belongs to Myanmar, China is learnt to have set up extensive infrastructure there.
Javadekar’s assurance that in the future the ministry would take decisions rooted in the policy framework rather than making case-by-case decisions sounds promising and apt. The promise that the details of the policy framework would be worked out soon and the document would be put in the public space must be watched for its implementation.