Palampur, August 25
The strategic Pathankot-Mandi road widening project linking Pathankot with Leh has been delayed because of the delay in the grant of forest and environment clearances. The project has been hanging fire since 2018
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had approved the construction of the first phase of the project between Pathankot (Kandwal) and 32 Miles in Kangra district in March this year and had released Rs 145 crore on account of compensation to be paid for the land acquired. Out of the amount released, Rs 71 crore had already been disbursed among the affected parties and the balance amount would also be distributed in the next one month, NHAI sources said.
However, as no headway has been made in getting the forest and environment clearances from state and union governments, the project is on hold. Global bids for the first phase of the project were opened by the NHAI on March 26 and construction work of the highway valuing Rs 1,002.11 crore was awarded to a Gurugram-based construction company.
“As much as 90 per cent land for the first phase of the project has already been acquired, which is one of the basic conditions for the completion of the bidding process. However, as forestland is also involved, construction cannot be taken up without an NOC from the state and Union governments,” said a spokesman for the NHAI.
The 219-km Pathankot-Mandi road project of the Union Government has strategic importance as it links Pathankot with Leh, Ladakh and other forward areas. Considering defence requirements, the Central Government wants to complete it early.
The spokesman said the NHAI was focused on ensuring minimum cutting of hills, avoiding environmental degradation causing inconvenience to people residing along the highway and avoiding dislocation of business establishments. Therefore, the width of the road had been reduced at several points. The distance between Pathankot and Mandi would be reduced from 219 km to 171 km when the four-lane road is completed
Union Road and Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had laid the foundation stone of the first 40-km stretch from Pathankot to 32 Miles in 2017.
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