High Court directs NHAI to avoid laying the road across tanks
Uncertainty prevails over the laying of a new by-pass road between Panchapur and Jeeyapuram, to connect the Tiruchi-Madurai, Tiruchi-Dindigul and Tiruchi-Karur national highways in the outskirts of the city.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to avoid laying the road across the Kothamangalam, Kallikudi and Punganur tanks.
The road, laid by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), runs from Panchapur on the NH45 via Thayanur to Jeeyapuram on NH 67.
The project was taken up as part of the widening of the NH 67 being executed on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.
While the total length of the by-pass would be around 17 km, the alignment between the Tiruchi-Dindigul and Tiruchi-Karur highways, a distance of about 4.5 km, has been strongly opposed by farmers of the area.
Farmers of the region contended that their irrigation and water sources would be affected owing to the laying of the road across the tanks. Some of the Opposition parties, including the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, had supported the farmers' contention and even organised agitations over the issue.
Based on a petition from the farmers of the area, the High Court has directed the NHAI to first consider the feasibility of avoiding the water tanks completely.
If it was not feasible, then the road should at best be aligned along the boundaries of the tanks without affecting the inflow or outflow of water as suggested by the Director, Centre for Water Resources, Anna University, Chennai. (The court had previously ordered the constitution of an expert committee headed by the Director, Centre for Water Resources, to review the alignment of the road. The committee after a field inspection had submitted a report.)
As a last resort, the authorities could align the highway by constructing a bridge across the tanks.
But it could be done only after giving valid reasons for not choosing the first two options and in no eventuality, a road should be laid across the tanks with culverts, the court has held.
Enquiries with the NHAI revealed that the local unit would now refer the matter, in the wake of the HC directive, to their headquarters in New Delhi and await a decision.
Sources said that a substantial portion of the by-pass road work has been completed and constructing a bridge would cost about Rs.250 crore against the total project cost of Rs. Rs.516 crore.
However, the court had rejected this contention stating that huge cost involved in constructing the bridge cannot be a justification to lay roads across the water sources thereby making them defunct in the course of time.
The court also said that it could not allow laying of roads across water bodies on the sole ground that the construction work had already been completed to a considerable extent by spending huge sum of money.