BHUBANESWAR: As the political slugfest over delay in construction of second river bridge over Brahmani continues unabated and Odisha Assembly witnessing pandemonium on the issue, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday held the State Government responsible for the tardy progress of the project.
Responding to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Monday letter, Gadkari said delay in granting statutory approvals including forest clearance and land acquisition has led to non-commencement of several National Highway projects, including the river bridge on Brahmani on Birmitrapur-Barkote section of NH-143.
“I was surprised and pained to receive your letter and media reports suggesting the delay on the part of NHAI. I may like to clarify that all these projects are delayed for want of forest clearances and land issues,” Gadkari said in his reply to the Chief Minister.
Recalling his meeting with the Chief Minister in New Delhi on September 27, the Union Minister said, “I had raised the issue of inordinate delay in granting forest clearances by the Forest Department due to which major projects of about 500 km length with investment of about `5,000 crore could not be started.” “You promised me to resolve all pending issues at the earliest. However, four such projects are still pending for approvals,” the letter said.
Noting that he had rejected the State Government’s proposal for two-lane Brahmani bridge, Gadkari said he insisted for a six-lane bridge keeping in view the future growth in traffic and socio-economic importance of the bridge, the contract of which was awarded on July 20 at an estimated cost of `381.75 crore.
Gadkari said, his Ministry has been proactively taking up development of NH in Odisha and already road projects of 3,121 km length with approximately an investment of `22,011 crore have been taken up in the State. While road projects of 2,150 km with an investment of `30,000 crore have been taken up under the ambitious Bharat Mala Pariyojana, the Ministry declared 1,817 km of roads in the State as in principle NH. Detailed project report for this NH projects is under preparation, he added.
Requesting the intervention of the Chief Minister for granting necessary approval, Gadkari said, “I assured that this project will be started within a week of receipt of requisite approvals from your end.”Accusing the BJP of misleading the people, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Arukha told reporters that forest clearance is not required for the proposed river bridge as there is no forest near the construction site.