Chennai Port-Maduravoyal link project to be halted till approval for fresh alignment along Cooum is obtained

The Water Resources Department (WRD) has directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to stop work on the Rs.1,815 crore Chennai Port-Maduravoyal elevated link road project that runs along the Cooum river.

In its letter dated 29 March, 2012, the WRD has said that during an inspection, it was found that pile caps constructed for the project obstructed the free flow of water in the Cooum. It was also found that the alignment of the elevated road was not along the bank of the river but on the waterway itself.

The Public Works Department granted clearance for the alignment furnished by the NHAI only on the condition that there would be no obstruction when the flood discharge of the river is 25,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs), the letter said.

The WRD has directed the NHAI to seek approval for alignment in the river and until such time, stop all construction activities. Sources said that alignment had been changed in two locations – Spurtank Road and down stream of Choolaimedu bridge. “Non-compliance of the notice will be taken up seriously and legal action will be taken. The Departmental Engineers have been directed to seize the machineries etc, which would be found in the site of Cooum river,” the letter said.

Sources in the NHAI said that there was no change in the alignment of the elevated road. “Work is not being carried out on the waterway. So far, around Rs.600-700 crore had been spent on the project. If stopped midway, it would only delay the project, which is supposed to help relieve Poonamallee High Road of traffic from the Chennai Port,” said a source.

The present alignment was cleared in 2007 only after a committee consisting of the Chief Engineer of WRD, Superintending Engineer of Highways Department, Senior Planner of Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, Superintending Engineer Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board and Superintending Engineer (bridges) of the Chennai Corporation inspected the site.

The in-principle approval for the project was issued on 22 June 2007, the NHAI source said. The Coastal Regulation Zone clearance for the project came in February 2011 and work began in April 2011. Sources said that even the contractor had been asked to remove its site office. “The project has nearly been on progress for one year. What is the sudden need for the government to find this so-called change in alignment,” the source wondered.

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