Bhubaneswar: Uncertainty looms over execution of the much-talked about 452-km highway project along Odisha coast as Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has refused to accord the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance.
Before the State-Centre rift over the project alignment comes to an end, the refusal of CRZ nod has come as a setback to the state. Now, apparently the best projects of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for Odisha will remain on pen and papers.
According to NHAI sources, the MoEF&CC has raised objections to the proposed alignment as it would adversely impact aquatic habitat. The appraisal panel of the ministry has rejected CRZ clearance “as the proposed alignment is passing through ecologically sensitive areas as well as critical wildlife and wetlands.”
The NHAI had proposed the highway linking Chhatrapur, Satapada, Konark, Astaranga, Nuagaon, Paradip, Ratanpur, Satabhaya, Dhamara, Basudevpur, Talapada, Chandipur, Chandaneswar and Digha.
“The ministry objected to the proposed signature bridges over lake Chilika as it is a habitat of Dolphins. It has asked the state to do away with eco-sensitive water bodies like river Luna, Bhitarkanika sanctuary and river Rushikulya,” said a senior NHAI official. The state has been batting for necessary road alignment close to the coast. The ministry, however, has refused to accord CRZ clearance on the proposed coastal route.
“We have informed our headquarters about the development. Very soon, the NHAI officials will meet state government officials to decide the future course of action to execute the project,” the official stated.
Meanwhile, the consultant firm appointed by NHAI to prepare DPR has been instructed to submit fresh alignment of the Coastal Highway. If a new route is planned, the ground work will have to be done afresh, the officer said.
Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari in April 2015 had announced the Coastal Highway project at a public meeting in Pipli with the aim of protecting the cyclone prone areas and to link the road with ports and promote tourism. After that, both ruling Biju Janata Dal and Opposition BJP have used the project as political weapons to take on each other resulting in delays in execution of the work. Though many high-level meetings were held between state and Centre, no breakthrough has emerged so far.