NHAI's change to proposed coastal highway to West Bengal irks Odisha government

Since the discussion on the 70-km stretch from Gopalpur to Satapada via Chilika remained inconclusive, it was decided to take up the matter after the layout of the 370 km stretch is ready.
Image for representational purpose only. ( File | EPS)
Image for representational purpose only. ( File | EPS)

BHUBANESWAR: The proposed coastal highway connecting Gopalpur in Odisha with Digha in West Bengal has run into controversy with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) changing its alignment for the third time in last three years and dumping its earlier proposal that was acceptable to the State government.

The 450-km highway to pass through six coastal districts will be built at a cost of Rs 7,000 crore under the Centre's Bharatmala Pariyojana. As per the original alignment, the highway was to pass through the eco-sensitive zone of Asia's largest brackish water lagoon Chilika on which the NHAI had planned two signature bridges.

However, the alignment was changed after the State government wanted to bypass Chilika as its flora and fauna and the habitat of dolphins may be affected by the constructions.

At a high-level meeting chaired by the then Chief Secretary on November 15, 2019, the government had agreed to the revised alignment presented by the NHAI on the stretch from Satapada to Digha having a distance of around 370 km.

Since the discussion on the 70-km stretch from Gopalpur to Satapada via Chilika remained inconclusive, it was decided to take up the matter after the layout of the 370 km stretch is ready. More than a year after the decision, the NHAI has come up with a fresh alignment by dividing the project into two components.

As per the new alignment, the first component of the proposed coastal highway will now start from Tangi in Khurda instead of Satpada and terminate at Ratanpur in Bhadrak covering a distance of 177.119 km. The second component of the highway is 60.7 km Ratanpur-Dhamra and 110 km Basudevpur-Digha.

The rest 30 km stretch from Dhamra to Basudevpur to be taken up under another package of the NHAI. Although the fresh alignment was approved by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in October last year, it came to the fore during a review by Deputy Chairman of State Planning Board Sanjay Dasburma.

"Already six years have passed since the project was announced. But the alignment of the highway is yet to be finalised. How can it be termed as coastal highway if it is built far away from the coast? The alignment is not acceptable as it deviates from the basic mandate," Dasburma said.

Chief General Manager (Technical) of NHAI Ram Prasad Panda said, "The alignment is awaiting the nod of the Land Acquisition Committee"

Revised plan

  • First component: 177.119 km from Tangi to Ratanpur in Bhadrak

  • 2nd component: 60.7 km from Ratanpur to Dhamra 

  • 110 km from Basudevpur to Digha

  • 30 km from Dhamra to Basudevpur under another package of NHAI

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