Green activist opposes coastal highway connecting Odisha with West Bengal

It will harm fragile coastal environment, says Prafulla Samantara

Published - December 10, 2019 01:36 am IST - BERHAMPUR

Green Nobel Prize winner Prafulla Samantara has opposed the 415-km-long coastal highway from Digha in West Bengal to Gopalpur in south Odisha proposed by the Central and State governments.

Mr. Samantara has urged all political parties and environmental activists to oppose the project. In April 2015, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced this ₹7,500-crore project. It has recently received the approval of the Odisha government and the National Highways Authority of India has been directed to start obtaining clearances.

Earlier, the Odisha government had objected to some alignments of the project. The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change had also made some observations on the proposed road that will pass through Chilika lake and other eco-sensitive areas.

Original plan

The State government has now agreed to the original NHAI plan for 320-km stretch between Digha and Satapada. The remaining 95-km stretch from Satapada to Gopalpur via Chilika lake has not yet received green signal from the Odisha government.

Mr. Samantara says this project will jeopardise fragile coastal environment of the Odisha coast and affect major biodiversities like Chilika lake and Bhitarkanika. According to him, the project will also destroy the natural mangrove forests and lead to increased threat of sea erosion. “There is no need of this coastal highway as a tourism or economy booster as the existing NH-16 passing through Odisha is never far away from the coast.”

Mangroves act as natural barrier against flood and tides, and protect the beach. They house a rich variety of flora and fauna, and migratory birds. The coastal highway will destroy more than 33% of mangrove forests, the environmental activist said.

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