Ropeways to be exempted from prior EIA scrutiny

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Terming the aerial ropeway as an “environment-friendly mode of transport” in hilly areas with least impact on environment compared to roads / highways, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has planned to exempt such projects to be excluded from the scrutiny of environmental impact assessment.

This, the Ministry said, was done at the recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Infrastructure sector.

Incidentally, the draft notification published by the MoEF&CC on February 8 bears the date of February 2, a day after the Finance Minister announced a National Ropeways Development Programme in the Union Budget 2022-23.

Environmentalists are already critical of the Environment Ministry that has introduced a slew of measures that they claim have diluted the environmental norms in favour of ease of doing business.

The Environment Ministry 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 requirement of environmental clearance for these projects “came only in 2006 and before that these projects were excluded from the requirement of Environmental Clearance.”

Further, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry requested the Environment Ministry to review the said notification and exclude ropeways from the projects requiring prior Environmental Clearance (EC).

“Public utility ropeways have been excluded from the ambit of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 subject to certain conditions,” the MoEF&CC stated citing a letter from August 2019.

The Ministry had then referred the issue to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Infrastructure sector in the Ministry for deliberation. “After detailed deliberation, the Committee recommended that aerial ropeway is an environment friendly mode of transport in hilly areas with least impact on environment compared to Roads / Highways and recommended that aerial ropeway projects may be excluded from the ambit of EIA Notification, 2006 subject to certain environmental safeguards prescribed from time to time,” it said.

During her Budget speech, the Finance Minister had announced ‘Parvatmala: National Ropeways Development Programme’ for all the Himalayan states. The project will be taken as a preferred ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional roads in difficult hilly areas; it will be taken up in PPP mode and the aim is 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 2022-22, it was announced.

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