New Delhi: The Constitution of India does not prescribe environment and forest clearances for the development of airports and major ports in the country, said Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport and highways, and shipping, on Friday.
The law ministry will soon issue a notification in this regard, he added.
“A few days ago, I received a letter, which said that nowhere in the Constitution of India Baba Saheb Ambedkar had said that environment and forest clearances were required for airport and major port projects. I saw that letter and read the Constitution and it was absolutely correct."
Gadkari said he has taken up the matter with Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who has asked him to send a file with the letter and other details.
“The law minister has told me that he will go through the contents within two days and will issue a notification stating that airports and major ports don’t require environment clearances."
The move will remove a major hurdle for infrastructure projects. Today, environmental clearances from the central government is required for more than two dozen categories of developmental projects, including mining, thermal power plants, river valley, infrastructure (roads, highways, ports, harbours and airports) and industries.
The clearance process covers screening, scoping and evaluation of the projects with the aim of assessing their impact on the surrounding environment and the people, and prescribe measures to minimise them.
Gadkari’s statement has, however, been contested by environmental activists. Leo F. Saldanha, an environment lawyer and coordinator at the Bengaluru-based Environment Support Group, said: “The minister should resign for the misinterpretation of the Constitution. If he reads various Articles, including 243, 248, and many other parts, it would be clear that the Constitution clearly provides for such permissions."
Saldanha said ministers should speak responsibly, while making public statements.