According to an NHAI official, this is just the “preliminary mobilisation” for the project

Notwithstanding the rejection of clearance for the elevated expressway project (Chennai Port to Maduravoyal) by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is busy constructing project-related preliminary structures.

An office space that will be used for administrative purposes during project execution is currently being constructed on Spurtank Road.

On Monday, a group of construction workers and a supervisor from a private firm were at the site along the Cooum, busy working on a huge shed-like structure. Enquiries revealed that the space would function as the office for the contractors executing the project.

According to an NHAI official, this is just the “preliminary mobilisation” for the project and work has not yet commenced. “The Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) has made a recommendation to the Ministry and we are optimistic of getting Costal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance this time.”

It is, however, not part of the agenda of the upcoming April 19 meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee for Coastal Regulation Zone (Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous Projects).

A senior Highways official said that to facilitate clearance procedures, the name of the project has been changed from ‘elevated expressway' to ‘elevated corridor'. “An expressway has access control, which will ensure point-to-point transit, and a minimum speed limit. But the current alignment has entry and exit ramps along the corridor. This means there will be less noise and dust pollution. The name was a bit misleading.”

The application for clearance based on the premise that the corridor is just a ‘connecting road' and not an expressway was rejected in December, 2009.

In November, families settled around the area were asked to vacate as part of an encroachment clearance drive. The four-lane elevated expressway, covering a length of 19 km, was proposed by the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways; the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is the executing authority.

The expressway is to be partly constructed along the Cooum and partly over Poonamallee High Road at a cost of Rs.1,655 crore.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

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