Airports and ports may not need environment clearance any more, if a proposal by Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways, Shipping, Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation, goes through.

“The original Constitution framed by Baba Saheb Ambedkar doesn’t not asks for green clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest while giving approvals for major ports and airports,” said Gadkari at a conference here on Friday. “Why ask for environment and forest clearances which delay developmental work?” he remarked.

The Minister said he has already discussed doing away with environment and forest clearance with the Law Minister. “He has asked me to send him a file for consideration, after which we can issue a notification,” he said at a ceremony to mark an MoU between the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and State Bank of India. Under the agreement, NHAI will borrow ₹25,000 crore from the SBI.

Gadkari said road construction will reach over 40 km next year. He sought funds worth ₹2 lakh crore for projects in shipping, ports and inland waterways sector, and suggested that banks tie up with ADB, World Bank, insurance and pension funds to arrange funds.

NHAI fund raising

The Finance Ministry has given approval to NHAI to raise ₹62,000 crore this year, Minister of State for Road Transport Mansukh Lal Mandaviya said.

“The SBI has already credited the funds into NHAI, in what is the largest ever funding by a bank,” Road Transport Secretary and NHAI Chairman Yudhvir Singh Malik said. “We hope it is the beginning of a partnership.”

“NHAI is also looking to issue ‘Bharatmala’ bonds this year,” said Ashish Sharma, Member-Finance, NHAI.

“When NHAI issued expressions for interest to raise funds (of ₹25,000 crore), SBI offered the funds at the lowest cost. Apart from the ₹25,000 crore funds mobilised, NHAI has also raised ₹5,000 crore from National Small Savings Fund (8.38 per cent, 10 year duration); ₹4,000 crore (8.5 per cent from LIC with 30 year duration), ₹1,160 crore through 54 EC bonds (that allow long term capital tax gains exemption). SBI has offered funds at 7.99 per cent for 10 years with three year moratorium on repayments,” another official explained.