Balasore: The Coastal Highway Project, an ambitious infra project of the Centre has remained a non-starter here even after the passage of eight years since its inception, a report said Wednesday. The then Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had announced the construction of a 451-km long coastal highway that will connect the Digha coast in neighbouring West Bengal with Gopalpur in Ganjam district crisscrossing through coastal parts of the state, April 15, 2015.
At the time of the announcement, it was said that the Coastal Highway Project will help in the development of beach tourism and the development of the coastlines and transportation leading to social and economic growth of the areas close to the coastline. The Union government then sanctioned Rs 7,500 crore for the project in the first phase and completed the survey works.
Meanwhile, eight years have passed since then but work on the project is yet to start. The delay in implementation of the Coastal Highway Project has also hit several infrastructure projects proposed by the state government. The announcement of the project prompted the state government to announce the construction of a 45.5- km-long coastal road project from Digha to Balasore and a bridge across the Subarnarekha river at a plan outlay of Rs 217 crore.
Accordingly, the Works department prepared an estimate of Rs 68.25 crore for the construction of 45.5-km long road in which Rs 1.5 crore will be spent per km. It also made an estimate of Rs 12.80 crore for the construction of six bridges and Rs 120 crore for the construction of a bridge across the Subarnarekha river and Rs 15.25 crore for the construction of 30 box culverts. The state government also planned a road from Haldipada to Panchupada and the construction of another bridge on the Panchupada river as the road project of the state government was connecting with NH60 at Haldipada. It prepared a plan outlay and submitted a detailed report to the Centre for its appraisal and approval. The road when constructed will reduce the distance to Balasore by 17 km while it will directly connect all major sea beaches like Digha, Talasari, Udayapur, Dag ra, Balaramgadi and Chandipur and will result in the development of beach tourism.
This road will also open up communication facilities to flood-prone and remote areas of Balasore Sadar, Basta, Baliapal and Bhograi blocks in Balasore district. This road will also be helpful to the satellite hospital of AIIMS in Balasore, Fakir Mohan Medical College and Hospital (FMMCH) in Balasore and the defence establishment at Chandipur in the district. The Centre also realised the importance of the state government’s proposal and expressed its interest to sanction funds. It has been eight years since the Centre announced the coastal highway but the project is still limited to only announcement and yet to be realised.
Neither the coastal highway is being constructed, nor is any work being undertaken on the proposed state-sponsored coastal road. The local intelligentsia has alleged that both the Centre and state governments made such an announcement to influence the residents for votes. When contacted, NH project director Jayprakash Verma said that a detailed report comprising the volume of land required for the Coastal Highway Project as well as funds has been sent to the Union government for its approval. The land acquisition for the coastal highway will start soon after the Centre sanctions funds for the project, he added.