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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Widening of Shillong-Dawki road to boost state’s growth: HC

The High Court stated, “The corridor is right for environment-friendly industries to be set up. All authorities concerned should put their best foot forward to ensure that the entire project is completed without undue delay so that the incidental and related benefits can be enjoyed by the citizens living or working on or along the route,”

SHILLONG:

The Division Bench of the High Court of Meghalaya observed that the widening and realignment of the Shillong to Dawki road will give a big boost to the State and aid in greater accessibility.

The Court heard a PIL on the matter pertaining to the felling of trees for the purpose of a flyover to be constructed between Rilbong and Mylliem Marbaniang. On the Rilbong to Jalupara stretch, 103 trees are proposed to be felled for the land to be taken over for the purpose of the construction of the flyover.

The Court further stated, “The corridor is right for environment-friendly industries to be set up. All authorities concerned should put their best foot forward to ensure that the entire project is completed without undue delay so that the incidental and related benefits can be enjoyed by the citizens living or working on or along the route,”

Though the matter pertaining to felling of trees may have been appropriately addressed, since the project remains pending and there are issues pertaining to acquisition in at least three of the stretches, the matter will remain pending and the Court will monitor the progress made by the State to complete the acquisition and to hand over the land to NHIDCL on an urgent basis.

The petition has been filed by a concerned lawyer. Though it is clarified that the attempt is not to stall any development project or any measure adopted to ease traffic congestion in Shillong, the apprehension is that the trees are felled even before the project is on the drawing-board resulting in the loss of old and precious trees without the project ever taking off.

The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is represented and said that the contract had already been issued but upon the contractor foreclosing the same, steps have been taken to invite new offers and the last date for receipt of the same is March 15, 2023.

The NHIDCL submitted that about 26 trees have already been felled and the further felling activity will be undertaken only to ensure that the handing over of the land to the contractor is not delayed.

The Court stated, “There also appear to be certain problems regarding acquisition of land and NHIDCL assures the Court that no trees in the disputed areas would be felled before the actual process of acquisition is completed. It is submitted on behalf of the State that the trees referred to by the petitioner are not within the disputed areas where acquisition has not yet been completed.”

Both the State and NHIDCL indicate that in accordance with the practice now in place for trees felled for the purpose of any infrastructure project, land has to be acquired elsewhere and a degree of afforestation undertaken.

The petitioner, however, points out that it is possible that even after the acquisition of the land for the flyover project, similar trees are planted in the area so that some of the pristine nature may be restored despite the unavoidable development work undertaken.

It is submitted on behalf of the NHIDCL that the Rilbong to Jalupara flyover is only a part of the five-part project pertaining to the proposed expansion, widening and development of the Shillong to Dawki road. The five packages are the following: (i) Rilbong to Mylliem Marbaniang covering 11.6 km; (ii) Mylliem Marbaniang to Wahlyngkhat of a length of 26.55 km; (iii) Wahlyngkhat to Siatbakon covering a bypass of 8 km; (iv) Siatbakon to Wahkdait for 17.77 km; and (v) Wahkdait to Tamabil Dawki of 7.99 km.

Of the five packages, the contract for the Rilbong to Mylliem Marbaniang stretch is due to be awarded, subject to receipt of adequate response, by March, 2023.

The second package awaits land acquisition in seven pockets covering a length of 1.30 km, shifting of pipelines and removal of some electric poles.

The State has assured the Court that the seven pockets of disputes pertaining to land acquisition will be resolved by the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills as expeditiously as possible.

“Such exercise should be completed, preferably, by the end of April, 2023. In addition, the State says that the shifting of pipelines and the electric poles will be completed by the Public Health Engineering Department and the Meghalaya Power Distribution Company Limited, respectively, by the end of this financial year,” the Court stated.

The third package of 8 km envisages the construction of a bypass and land acquisition is pending for the entire stretch.

“It would be a shame if the other parts are completed and the entire work is stalled because of land being unavailable or acquisition thereof being incomplete in respect of the 8-km stretch. The State should use its resources and authority to complete the acquisition proceedings as expeditiously as possible and, preferably, by the end of June, 2023 so that the work for such stretch can be taken up immediately thereafter,” the Court said.

The Court observed that for the fourth package of 17.77 km, there is a dispute pertaining to the land covering 0.710 km which should be resolved by the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills with the 25 landowners by the end of April, 2023.

The Court further directed that for a further 0.120 km, the acquisition proceedings should also be completed expeditiously, and before the end of June, 2023 and for the fifth package, some small portions of the land remain unacquired due to the disputes raised by erstwhile landowners.

The Court directed the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills should again resolve the issue by the end of April, 2023.

The State assured the Court that all necessary assistance will be rendered in the urgent acquisition and the like for NHIDCL to undertake the work and complete the same as expeditiously as possible and the Court stated that NHIDCL, in turn, should complete all preparatory steps so that notices inviting tender may be issued immediately upon the acquisition of land being completed.

The matter is listed on March 20, 2023.

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