Surat-Chennai economic corridor runs into green hurdle

01 Aug 2022

A key segment of the ambitious Surat-Chennai economic corridor has hit a serious ecological hurdle. The nearly Rs 140 billion project has run into trouble with the Union Environment Ministry's Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for infrastructure projects over its proposed 290 km long greenfield Surat-Nashik-Ahmednagar section, which falls in pristine and untouched areas of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.

The EAC has, in a July 21-22 meeting, said that the stakeholder ministry/department should upgrade along the existing National Highway alignment instead of running into 'virgin and ecologically sensitive new parts of Western Ghat areas'.

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) are preparing to 'appeal' with the Environment ministry to reconsider its view and allow leeway for the national connectivity project which will ultimately link up Delhi to Chennai through an access-controlled corridor.

The project has been a major political and economic talking point for the infrastructure boost it will bring to the region.

"We will appeal with the EAC. Packages for so many segments linking up to this corridor have already been awarded. This was to be an access-controlled expressway - a key link off the Golden Quadrilateral for national connectivity. We are very mindful of environmental concerns and have always prioritised them and the new alignment will in fact reduce affected area and use modern technology to minimise environmental damage. However, there is no other alternative alignment possible and upgrading the existing one defeats the very purpose of the corridor," a senior official was reported to have said.

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