Tough road ahead for NH expansion project in Goa

The land acquisition process for the ambitious national highway expansion project in Goa has hit a roadblock with the state government facing intense opposition to the widening of NH4-A and NH-17, passing through the state.

Last Updated: Aug 26, 2010, 15:33 PM IST

Panaji: The land acquisition process for the
ambitious national highway expansion project in Goa has hit a
roadblock with the state government facing intense opposition
to the widening of NH4-A and NH-17, passing through the state.

The need for acquiring land near the existing highways
and possible demolition of several houses for the project, has
kicked off a major row in the state.

After modifying its decision several times on width of
the road to be acquired, the government has now finally put on
hold the land acquisition process till further orders.

The revenue department, this week, issued orders to keep
on hold the land acquisition process for this centrally-funded
project. The expansion plan also has on cards construction of
several new bridges and revamping road infrastructure in Goa.

Goa, which receives tourists, almost twice its population
of 14 lakh, has been facing many infrastructural issues,
including congested roads.

Chief Minister Digamber Kamat in a press conference had
announced recently that the state will go for 45-metres-wide
road in non-populated areas and 35-metres-wide in densely
populated localities.

This decision, according to him, was taken to protect
several structures from being razed down to make way for the
highway.

India`s smallest state spread over around 3,000 sq kms of
land has almost half of its area as forest land. Back in 1990s
the cheap real estate prices had attracted many to this beach
heaven, resulting in an increased migration rate.

Now, the fear of losing shelter looms large over the
population, which has raised apprehensions over widening of
these highways.

"We have organised public meetings to lobby against
government`s current plan of the highway expansion," Sunil
Desai, a member on the Diversion NH4-A Action Committee, said.

The committee estimates that with the current realignment
plan, state will have to demolish 541 major structures.

They said that these dwellings includes houses of poor
and also those from middle class families who have managed to
get a roof over their head by borrowing loans.

"Government will have to face a loss of Rs 1250
crores. An expansion will make lives of many unstable and also
affect the business community," Desai said.

The NH4-A highway expansion is also facing a major
hurdle at its tail end on Goa-Karnataka border.

"Almost 11 kms of highway runs through Bhagwan
Mahaveer Wildlife sanctuary and the state Wildlife Board has
expressed its reservation over the project," Dr Shashi Kumar,
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said.

He said that the Wildlife Board which met on Wednesday
has decided not to give its consent to highway expansion till
all the relevant papers are studied.

Kumar said the highway which runs through Bhagwan
Mahaveer wildlife sanctuary and National Park at Mollem will
need 13.8 hectares of sanctuary land and 7.9 hectares of
national park land.

He said Goa forest department will not allow the
National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to acquire the
land.

"The land will be given to them for use and the
authority is going to compensate us for the land use," he
asserted.

PTI