Continuing with the spree of amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment notification of 2006, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has exempted ropeway projects from EIA scrutiny.
Although this is the fourth amendment in this month, the notice (for this) was issued by the Ministry on February 2 and published on February 8. “After the mandatory notice period of 60 days, we are now going ahead with the final notification,” said an official from the Ministry about the notification published in the wee hours on Thursday but dated April 27.
The Ministry had termed the aerial ropeway as an “environment-friendly mode of transport” in hilly areas with least impact on the environment compared to roads/highways in the long run while environmentalists had opposed it citing damage to the local environment, lack of proper implementation of environmental management plans and loss of livelihood to the locals.
The Environment Ministry had in February said it had received a representation from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways stating that ropeways are an important component of the transport network of the country as it can be used to provide last mile connectivity as well as mobility in hilly areas and the decision was taken at the recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Infrastructure sector.
Earlier, during her Budget 2022-23 speech, the Finance Minister had announced ‘Parvatmala: National Ropeways Development Programme’ for all the Himalayan states. The projects would be taken as a preferred ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional roads in difficult hilly areas; in PPP mode and with the aim to improve connectivity and convenience for commuters, besides promoting tourism, the FM had said.
Contracts for eight ropeway projects for a length of 60 kms would be awarded in 2022-23, it was announced.
Environmentalists are already critical of the Environment Ministry which has introduced a slew of measures that they claim have diluted the environmental norms in favour of ease of doing business.