Biju link takes off, battles low budget

Construction of the Biju Expressway, the much-hyped Jagdalpur-Rourkela corridor aimed to connect southern parts of the state with west Odisha, has begun, despite low budgetary allocation made for it this year.

By SUBRAT DAS in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 14.04.15
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Bhubaneswar, April 13: Construction of the Biju Expressway, the much-hyped Jagdalpur-Rourkela corridor aimed to connect southern parts of the state with west Odisha, has begun, despite low budgetary allocation made for it this year.

The project aims to connect four western districts - Bargarh, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, and Sundargarh - with the undivided Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi region's four districts, namely Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Nuapada.

At present, it takes 13 hours to travel from Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh to Rourkela (650km), but once the corridor is completed, the travel time will be reduced to six hours.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had launched the 650-km project with an estimate of Rs 3,200 crore on August 28 last year. Later, the estimate has been revised to around Rs 3,500 crore. The first phase of the project was expected to be over by May 2017, and the entire project by May 2020.

A sum of Rs 30 crore has been allocated for the state-funded project in 2015-16 budget, triggering doubts as to whether it will be completed by the deadline.

However, widening work on the Rourkela-Sambalpur and Sohela-Sambalpur stretches has started. Works secretary Nalinikanta Pradhan said: "The four-laning of 160-km Sambalpur-Rourkela state highway (SH-10) has started in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. Similarly, the four-laning work on the 74-km Sohela-Sambalpur national highway (NH-53) is being funded by the National Highways Authority of India."

Pradhan was hopeful that the project would be completed within the deadline. "We have sought more funds from the government," he said.

Official sources said the works department had demanded Rs 250 crore, and at least Rs 100 crore was expected to be sanctioned this year.

The survey is on the realignment of 307-km stretch between Sohela and Ambapani - which covers state highways, major district roads and other district roads. "Widening of this stretch will be challenging and time consuming as it involves land acquisition. After the land acquisition, estimates will be prepared. Doubling of the road will be undertaken on the available land," said a works department official.

Reports from Sambalpur and Rourkela said the four-laning of the Sambalpur-Rourkela State Highway No. 10 is going on in full swing. The widening work is being executed by the Larsen and Toubro (L&T).

The land acquisition to facilitate the widening has been over. The estimated budget for the widening from Sambalpur to Rourkela is around Rs 1,200 crore. "The widening work of the entire stretch from Sambalpur to Rourkela is under progress," said assistant executive engineer of the works department P.K. Nath, who is stationed at Sambalpur.

Former president of the Rourkela Chamber of Commerce and Industries Aditya Mohapatra said: "The road will be the game changer for this part of the state. Good road connectivity will promote industrialisation. However, the second bridge on the Brahmani river is an integral part of this project and should be taken up at the earliest."

Coastal highway

The chief minister has urged the Centre to approve a coastal highway from Gopalpur to Digha connecting several existing and upcoming ports, including Gopalpur, Astarang, Paradip, Kirtania and Chandipur.

"It is necessary to have a good coastal highway for efficient rescue and relief operations in the cyclone-prone coastal areas," Naveen told Union minister for shipping, road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi.

Gadkari has assured Naveen that the proposal would be taken up under the Bharat Mala scheme, official sources said.