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Ropeways now exempted from green nod

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ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi

The Union environment ministry has exempted aerial ropeways from requiring prior environmental clearance. In a notification issued on Wednesday, the ministry has said all aerial ropeways will be exempted from environmental clearance and environmental appraisal.

The ministry in its notification said the decision was following a request from ministry of road transport to exempt the sector for better connectivity in hilly regions. “The ministry is in receipt of representation from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) 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” it stated.

Public utility ropeways have been excluded from the ambit of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 subject to certain conditions as per a letter issued by the ministry in 2019. “The matter (MoRTH’s request) was referred to the Expert Appraisal Committee of Infrastructure sector in this ministry for deliberation. After detailed deliberation, the said Expert Committee recommended aerial ropeway is an environment friendly mode of transport in hilly areas with least impact on environment compared to Roads or Highways and recommended that aerial ropeway projects may be excluded from the ambit of EIA Notification, 2006 subject to certain environmental safeguards,” the notification adds. All objections and suggestions were duly considered, the notification states.

The draft EIA 2020, withheld following widespread criticism by environmental activists, also had a similar provision.

“There are two aspects to examine the claim that aerial ropeway technology is environmentally benign. These ropeways are primarily being constructed for tourism or industrial purposes and may not be public necessity. More importantly many of these projects are being implemented in hill and mountainous regions that are extremely vulnerable to climate variability and human induced disasters. EIAs for such projects can act as tools to pre-empt risks and minimise financial, ecological and social losses,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at Centre for Policy Research.

“My understanding is that the government wants to provide the provision of ropeways in tourist areas. If its possible then why not,” said a senior environment ministry official.

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