Bhubaneswar: Uncertainty looms large over implementation of the much focused 452-km coastal highway along Odisha as the State government and the Centre are at loggerheads over the project configuration.
The alignment approved by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was opposed by the State government at a meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi, Wednesday.
According to sources, the NHAI has proposed the highway to pass through Chhatrapur, Satapada, Konark, Astaragnga, Nuagaon, Paradip, Ratanpur, Satabhaya, Dhamara, Basudevpur, Talapada, Chandipur, Chandaneswar and Digha.
State Works Secretary NK Pradhan said the state government was opposed to the NHAI decision to construct the highway on the existing road between Satapada and Puri and suggested realignment of the project and to-route it through Konark and Astarang.
“In April, 2018, a meeting chaired by the Chief Secretary, made suggestions to the NHAI on the selection of routes for the coastal highway. We had suggested necessary road alignment so that it passes close to the coastline,” Pradhan said.
The NHAI has decided to take up the Satapada-Puri route which was disapproved by the Chief Secretary and other officials at the meeting.
“The State government asked NHAI officials to lay the route as far as close to the sea. The people should have the real feel of the coast while travelling on the highway,” Pradhan pointed out.
“For the Astaranga port, we suggested constructing the coastal highway bypassing the port. But we finally agreed with their plan for routes close to Paradip and Dhamra ports. It was also suggested at today’s morning that the highway close to Digha beach should be laid keeping green fields in mind connecting Subarnarekha mouth, Udaypur and Talasari,” he said.
Pradhan made it clear that after the realignment, the State government will accord necessary approvals for the project.
Under the project, two bridges will be built in Chilika Lake without disturbing the habitat of Dolphins. The two should appear like signature bridges, the Secretary told the media.
According to sources, the Chief Secretary who expressed displeasure over the NHAI move said the state’s suggestions should be incorporated on priority. He said if the NHAI could construct 800-km road as per Gujarat government’s plan, why can’t it do in Odisha?
Union Road Transport and Highway Minister Nitin Gadkari in April 2015 had announced the Coastal Highway project at a public meeting in Pipili with the aim of protecting the cyclone prone areas and to link the road with ports and promote tourism.
Meanwhile, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan blamed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the inordinate delay in implementation of the project.
He said the State government took six months to review the DPR and suggested modifications to the plan. The works secretary has been indulging in affairs other than administrative work, the minister suggested.
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