BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Government is contemplating to exclude eco-sensitive zone of Chilika from the proposed coastal highway plan, a major portion of which was accepted recently.The 451-km highway which will pass through Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Puri and Ganjam districts will be built at a cost of Rs 7,500 crore under Bhartmala Pariyojana of the Centre.
At a recent high-level meeting on alignment of coastal highway chaired by Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy, the State authorities agreed to the revised alignment of Satapada-Digha portion of the highway presented by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) but discussion on Satapada-Gopalpur stretch via Chilika remained inconclusive.Sources said the Government is seriously thinking of bypassing Chilika as its flora and fauna and the habitat of dolphins may get affected if the proposed bridges are allowed in the lake. The NHAI has proposed two signature bridges on the lake.
It is being planned to connect the coastal highway with NH-16 instead of stretching it up to Gopalpur. The existing state highway from Satapada via Krushnaprasad will provide the link to Khurda-Berhampur National Highway and save a lot of money. As per the revised alignment of Satapada-Digha portion, the highway will pass through Konark, Astarang, Ratanpur, Dhamara, Basudevpur and Chandipur.
The NHAI had to rework on the alignment following objections from the State Government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as the highway was to pass through Chilika lake and other eco-sensitive areas in the coastal region.“However, it has been decided that the alignment from Gopalpur to Satpada via Chilika lake will be reviewed at another meeting and decision will be taken thereafter. No decision, which will affect the biodiversity of the lake and other eco-sensitive areas, has been taken,” said an official who attended the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Chief Secretary has assured that the NHAI will get all possible help from the State Government as and when required for the coastal highway project.Earlier, the State Government had rejected the road alignment plan of NHAI and asked it to come up with a fresh layout. It was suggested that Konark-Astaranga coastal highway should be aligned closer to the coast as far as possible to give commuters the view and feel of the coastline.