To get 'linear' projects gain speed, the union environment ministry has relaxed norms on forest cover that would cut waiting time for commencing projects by three to six months.

The move will benefit projects related to roads, railway, power transmission lines, water supply pipelines and laying of fiber optic cable.

Prakash Javadekar

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar has reportedly conveyed this to road transport minister, Nitin Gadkari.

Projects can now move ahead on receiving an 'in-principle approval' from local authorities, resulting in waiting time coming down by three to six months.

In August 2014, the ministry had issued guidelines on the 'in-principle approval' that would mean 'working permission.'  On receiving such an approval, projects can go ahead with cutting trees and commence work, provided "the required funds for compensatory afforestation, net present value (NPV,) wildlife conservation plan, plantation of dwarf species of medicinal plants, and all such compensatory levies specified in the in-principle approval are realized from the user agency."

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had been fretting over the delay in getting permission for tree cutting as a first step towards commencement of work. The current move will remove hurdles, allowing project execution to speed up.

The Narendra Modi government has initiated a slew of reforms aimed at streamlining green clearances, with an inter-ministerial committee on infrastructure headed by Gadkari.