BHUBANESWAR: The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), which has been facing public ire for a proposed bridge over Kusei river since long, has appealed to the protesters to cooperate for construction of the highway project, considered as lifeline for the mineral-rich belt of Keonjhar district.
The residents of Belabahali and its adjacent villages under Anandapur block have been opposing construction of the bridge apprehending devastating floods during monsoon. They demanded that the bridge be relocated to minimise losses during calamities.
Clearing air on the controversy, Chief General Manager and Regional Officer of NHAI Dharmananda Sarangi said apprehensions of the villagers have no scientific base. “The bridge would never result in floods since its length is double the length of existing bridge, nearly 1.5 km away,” he clarified. Even as a PIL by Belabahali Anchalika Suraksha Manch seeking relocation of the bridge was rejected by the Orissa High Court which refused to interfere in the decision taken by the technical committee, Sarangi said the villagers are still preventing construction activities.
The NHAI officials said the length of the proposed bridge has been further enhanced to 390 metre and another bridge of 60 metre planned on the existing highway for easy discharge of water following the recommendation of an expert team of IIT, Kharagpur.
“We urge the villagers to go by the facts and suggestions of the experts and allow the contractor to construct the bridge project which is delayed by nearly a year due to persistent opposition,” Sarangi said.
Sources said the 166-km Panikoili-Rimuli section of NH-215 taken up under phase-III of National Highways Development Project at a cost of `2,300 crore on Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis on May 2, 2013 was to be completed by October, 2015.
While so far, only 64 per cent work of the four-lane project has been completed, the NHAI expects to handover it by June next year if villagers allow construction work without any further delay.