After the political tug war and debates for more than six years, alignment for the much-awaited coastal highway in Odisha has been finalised, an official said.
The works department of the Odisha government has informed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) about its consent for the project, proposed under the Centre's Bharatmala Pariyojana, the official said.
In a letter to NHAI chief general manager (technical), Ram Prasad Panda, State works additional secretary Hemanta Kumar Dutta said the highway will pass through Tangi (NH-16), Brahmagiri, Puri, Konark, Astarang, Naugaon, Paradip Port, Ratanpur, Satabhaya, Dhamra, Basudevpur, Talapada, Chandipur, Chandaneswar and Digha.
The alignment has been proposed mostly as greenfield avoiding forests, Balukhand wildlife sanctuary, Bhitarkanika national park and also avoiding the turtle nesting grounds, so as to minimise the environmental impact of it. The length of the project has also been decreased to 382 km from 450 km.
Earlier, the coastal highway was proposed from Gopalpur in Ganjam district to Satapada across Chilika Lake. Now, it will start from Tangi on NH-16 avoiding the eco-sensitive area of Chilika Lake.
Dutta requested the NHAI to include NH from Brahmagiri to Satapada in the project. Further, adequate cross drainage structures should be provided that will allow passage or runoff.
Implementation of the highway is considered one of the top priority infrastructure projects of the state keeping in view its socio-economic impact and connectivity to the nearby ports, he added.
"The project will be taken up in two phases. We are trying to complete the tendering process for at least one stretch by next March," said Panda.
In April 2015, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced the coastal highway project during one of his visits to Odisha. After that, the project was delayed due to a political slugfest between the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Later, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change refused to accord approval to the proposed alignment of the highway.