Dispute over elevated corridor project continues; Highways refuses to accede to demand

The tiff over the Rs. 1,815-crore Chennai Port-Maduravoyal elevated corridor project is ongoing, with the State government planning to ask the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to pay it compensation for hindering the course of the Cooum river.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa reviewed the project on Tuesday, and also sought details of a case filed by the NHAI at the Madras High Court as well as details of the damage caused to the Cooum.

According to a source at the Water Resources Department, the NHAI, which is implementing the four-lane project, had built over 30 pillars right on the Cooum river bed near Spurtank Road, Chetpet and College Road, Nungambakkam instead of constructing them on the river’s banks.

The Coastal Regulation Zone clearance for this project had allowed 35 pillars in places where the alignment of the expressway crossed over from a bank on one side to the other. However, in the Spurtank Road area, around 30 pillars have come up inside the river.

With this construction, the NHAI has violated the conditions laid down by the WRD and encroached upon the river bed by dumping debris and construction material, which has led to an obstruction of water flow and has increased the risk of flooding in neighbouring areas, the source said.

As the project has deviated from its original alignment, the NHAI is bound to remove these structures, pay compensation for the damage caused to the river and also restore the waterway to its original course, the source said.

Following these complications, the WRD had sought a revised environment clearance for the project, but this has not yet come through.

Sources at the NHAI however stuck to their stand and said there was no deviation in the alignment of the project.

“We have ensured that 25,000 cusecs of water in the river can flow at that point even after work has been completed. The debris on the river bed is only temporary and will be removed after the project is completed. The government has not removed other encroachments along the river bank including multi-storeyed buildings in Arumbakkam and Aminjikarai, where water flow is affected. If the other encroachments are removed, water flow will not be affected,” the source said.

Work on the 19-km long project began in September 2010 and was put on hold in March this year by the WRD. Around Rs. 500 crore has already been spent.

The contractor executing the project has so far raised claims totalling to around Rs. 900 crore due to the constant delays adding to the expenditure, and the State government is liable to pay this, the source said adding that public money would be wasted if the project was not completed.

It was in this regard that the NHAI filed the case.

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