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Corridor land handed over

Jalpaiguri, Nov. 7: The Jalpaiguri district administration today handed over 94.19 acres along the 26.5-km stretch of NH-31C between Salsalabari and Barobhisa to officials of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) for construction of the four-lane east west corridor.

The move, officials said, comes after permission was granted by the PWD department of the state and the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, who is also the chairman of a committee formed for the implementation and monitoring of the project.

'The NHAI had asked for land from us for construction of the four-lane corridor stretching all the way from Gujarat to Assam. We have obtained necessary clearance for this stretch between Barobhisa and Salsalabari. Alipurduar-2 and Kumargram blocks lie in this area. We handed over the land to the NHAI today and will issue the acquisition notice soon,' said A. Subbiah, district magistrate of Jalpaiguri.

The land, Subbiah said, would be acquired following the guidelines laid down in the National Highway Act.

'From acquisition to compensation, the NH Act would be followed in detail. Hearings would be conducted in case any objections are raised. Rules regarding the felling of trees would also be followed,' he added.

The four-lane expressway to run from Porbandar in Gujarat to Silchar in Assam courted controversy when the NHAI proposed the alignment of the route through forest reserves of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri.

An alternative route, passing through Jalpaiguri, Falakata, Cooch Behar into Assam was then suggested from various quarters, especially by the environmentalists.

The NHAI authorities, however, clarified that the disputed portion of the corridor, lying between Ghoshpukur (near Bagdogra) and Salsalabari is currently under consideration of the central ministry of environment and forests. The stretch is a cause of controversy as it is part of the proposed alignment of the NHAI and is supposed to pass through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara and Buxa Tiger Reserve.

'We had surveyed and submitted the details for a proposed alignment of the corridor. But the controversy that arose over the route is yet to be settled at the highest level. We have information that it is lying with the central ministry of environment and forests. We are likely to act on the basis of its decision,' said R.P. Singh, the project director of NHAI, Siliguri.

Singh, however, clarified that they would start work on the lane till Ghoshpukur on one side and Salsalabari on the other.

'We will take up the construction work of the four-lane expressway up to Ghoshpukur by December 15. On the other side, that is in Salsalabari, we will probably start work by another month's time after the land acquisition is complete at the field level,' Singh added.

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