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Silchar highway hits forest barrier

Nagaon, Dec. 11: The four-lane Srirampur-Silchar express highway project has run into a barrier in Nagaon district with the forest department unwilling to grant permission for widening the road as it would adversely affect the Lumding reserve forest.

The 732-km-long road, pegged at Rs 6,000 crore, would involve widening of National Highway 37, National Highway 36 and National Highway 57.

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), which is executing the project, has sought 117 hectares of land from the reserve forest spread over approximately 25,000 hectares. At last count, the forest had 117 elephants. Besides, it has a rich variety of trees.

P.J. Vijorkar, the divisional forest officer of Hojai, said more than 50,000 valuable trees would have to be felled for the work. Moreover, the state government had recently declared the forest as an elephant reserve. 'Elephants cannot cross such a wide road without running the risk of being hit by speeding vehicles. At best, we can give them permission for a two-lane road,' he said. Further, the NHAI is also facing problems in acquiring land in Nagaon, Morigaon and North Cachar Hills districts, sources said.

People here are pinning a lot of hope on the road project that would link Nagaon and Guwahati, as some vital bridges would be reconstructed.

In 2004, the Nagaon-Guwahati link was cut off because a bridge at Raha suffered extensive damage because of floods. Three other bridges in this section are also in a deplorable condition.

Pilgrimage: Chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Sunday flagged off a bus of 40 pilgrims from Upper Hengrabari Namghar, in Guwahati, to Jagannath Puri. The pilgrimage has been organised under the Assam government's Dharmajyoti scheme.

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