The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Taj corridor expense alert

Lucknow, June 23: The National Thermal Power Corporation, which was entrusted with the construction of the Taj Heritage Corridor, has warned the Uttar Pradesh government of “expensive damage” if work on the project is stopped midway.

In a letter to the government, the corporation has sought a directive about the project which was halted last Friday on the Centre’s orders. It warned that work at the site was incomplete and if timely remedial measures were not taken what has been completed would be washed away.

“It will be expensive damage and we are seeking your directives,” Gopal Jha, deputy general manager of the corporation at Agra, said in his letter to the Agra commissioner. A copy of the letter has been faxed to the state environment secretary.

The construction of the Rs 175-crore corridor generated controversy when the Archaeological Survey of India protested against it and the Supreme Court admitted a public interest litigation against it in March. The petition had alleged that the construction of the corridor violated the court’s guidelines on protecting the environment around the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.

On Friday, Union tourism minister Jagmohan directed the Mayavati government to stop work and conduct an inquiry to find out who had authorised work on the project without statutory clearances from environmental agencies.

The state principal secretary (finance), Naveen Chandra Bajpai, will head the probe.

Jha disputed the chief minister’s claim that she had not authorised the project but had stopped work the moment she came to know about it. “Had we not got a green signal from the state government, how could we have got started in December last year. How could we write this letter if we accept the government’s claim that its prior permission was not sought,” M.R. Arora, chief adviser to the corporation, said over telephone.

“We don’t know why the work has been stopped at component B which is eight kilometres from the Taj and was to be developed in an area spread over 25 acres,” Arora said.

Sources said the corporation had received Rs 17 crore from the government. Another Rs 20 crore were to be released but had not reached it yet.

“We have sent utilisation certificates for the work done. Whose loss will it be if the work is not restarted' The decision to stop work seems to have been taken without weighing the pros and cons,” Arora said.

He said ASI representatives attended each meeting held prior to starting work on the corridor. “Why were no objections raised at the time'” Arora asked.

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