The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Highway team falls into place

Calcutta, Feb. 12: The state government today appointed a consortium to implement a Rs 424-crore project to widen and strengthen some highways and their lateral roads — totalling 254 km — with assistance from the Asian Development Bank.

Officials of the ADB, which had sanctioned a Rs 234-crore loan for the project in December, today held a meeting with state PWD minister Amar Chowdhury and asked the government to complete the work by June 2006.

The consortium of Consulting Engineering Services and the UK-based Halcrow Group and Stup Consultants will begin the work on the West Bengal Corridor Development Project in June this year.

The roads under the poject include a 110-km stretch of state highway 10 from Hily to Gajole, 42 km of state highway 1 from Chakdah to Bongaon and 102 km of lateral rural access roads. Of the Rs 424 crore, the state government will bear Rs 190 crore.

The ADB’s head of infrastructure wing in India, Albab Akanda, said Bengal was strategically located for sub-regional connectivity and ADB, as the development partner, was interested in establishing a transport corridor for better trade and commerce and access to the Northeast.

He said the ADB was providing a Rs 1,500-crore loan to the country to develop national and state highways and the project in Bengal was a part of it. National Highway 34 will also be widened between Amdanga and Raiganj by the Central government and the work will be completed by January 2007.

The ADB, however, made it clear at today’s meeting that it was one of the conditions of the loan that the additional land that will be required to implement the project should be free from encroachment. Also, utilities like electricity and telephone lines will have to be re-located properly.

Akanda said resettlement of those who will have to be removed to implement the project was also another loan condition. “The government will engage a separate agency for the resettlement,” he added.

Sources in the PWD said the government may face stiff opposition while removing encroachers from both sides of the state highways in Nadia and North 24-Parganas before the panchayat polls slated for May.

“All political parties, including the ruling CPM, give protection to encroachers for electoral gains. We fear opposition from political leaders as most of the encroachers flanking the state highways are panchayat voters,” an official said.

PWD minister Chowdhury said the government has taken up the project seriously and priority is being given to meet the deadline. “We have already carried out feasibility studies and reports have been drawn up. Now that a consortium has been engaged, the work prior to implementation like drawing and designing will begin,” he added.

Akanda said the ADB had a number of other loan projects in the pipeline in the country for which the funding agency planned to spend $2 billion per year for the next four years. He added that the loans will be given in the fields of infrastructure development, technical assistance and public resource management.

The ADB is also carrying out studies on the possibility of inland waterways in Kerala and Assam and Akanda hoped that Bengal could also be included in the programme. “The ADB is also interested in participating in projects to improve the air quality of Calcutta by providing loan assistance for developing anti-pollution technology,” Akanda added.

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