Tunnel road project launched in Kerala! No survey sanctioned, claims Forest Department; details

By: |
October 6, 2020 11:42 AM

Due to the delay in getting additional land cleared by the Environment Ministry, there has been a roadblock in the development of the two-lane ghat road.

The road is seen as an alternative route to Thamarassery Ghat road that is 13-km long, along the highway of Kozhikode-Wayanad-Bengaluru.

Recently, the state government of Kerala launched a 7-km long tunnel road cutting through virgin forest in the Western Ghats between the districts of Kozhikode and Wayanad. However, it has been claimed by the forest department that a survey through the forest belt has not been sanctioned by them. According to an IE report, the road is seen as an alternative route to Thamarassery Ghat road that is 13-km long, along the highway of Kozhikode-Wayanad-Bengaluru. Due to the delay in getting additional land cleared by the Environment Ministry, there has been a roadblock in the development of the two-lane ghat road. This tunnel road is likely to reduce the distance between Kozhikode and Bengaluru by 7 km.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, after the launch of the project, said the development of the tunnel road would be completed within a period of three years. He said the tunnel road project got administrative sanction from Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board for an amount of Rs 658 crore. The project for which work will begin after three months is expected to cost Rs 900 crore, the minister said. According to him, the development of that road has limitations as the ghat road passes through the forest. He further said, a detailed study about environmental issues has been conducted by the government and the 7 km long road will be built underground through the forest.

The Kerala government had assigned the task of preparing the project report and construction to Konkan Railway Corporation. A field survey of the proposed tunnel route was started on September 22, by the corporation, which has reported massive landslides over the years. However, M Rajeevan, Kozhikode Division Forest Officer was quoted in the report saying that no sanction was given for conducting the survey in the forest land. The proposed route for this project is dense forest, virtually free from human intervention. For the survey, the forest department has not given sanction for any government or private agency, he added.

According to the state government of Kerala, because the road will be underground, there will be no loss to the forest. However, on 17 April 2018, the guidelines for the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes were revised by the Union Environment Ministry. As per the revised guidelines, for this tunnel construction, the forest Act would apply to the surface area as well as the underground area beneath the forest. Also, conditions related to underground mining would be applicable for tunnel projects, it said.

Meanwhile, completion of work on a 945-metre long tunnel along National Highway 544, between Thrissur and Palakkad, is pending for 11 years. Development of the twin-tunnel began in the year 2009, but due to various factors like protest against damage from the blasting of rocks, financial crisis in the contractor firm, and lack of clearance from the forest department, work was delayed. In the year 2009, the project cost was estimated at Rs 900 crore, but now it has risen to an amount of Rs 1,100 crore, according to media reports.

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