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Expressways go into cold storage

GUWAHATI, May 30: In the wake of its coming to power in May 2016, the Sarbananda Sonowal government set out on an ambitious project plan to construct an expressway on either bank of the Brahmaputra, besides dredging the riverbed. The proposed plan had many takers in the State, and it was natural for them to be optimistic. The project looked even more enchanting after Union Road Transport and Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari gave his nod to it and proposed it to be an integrated project by encompassing dredging of the riverbed so as to control the damage it would cause. However, the project has now gone into cold storage with the Centre cold shouldering it.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, State Water Resources Minister Keshab Mahanta and others had at least two meetings with Gadkari on the proposed project, one each in 2016 and 2017. At the last meeting, Gadkari proposed to make the project an integrated one by encompassing the expressway, dredging of the riverbed etc. It was also decided at the meeting that Water and Power Consultancy Services Ltd (WAPCOS), a Government of India undertaking, would prepare the detailed project report (DPR) of the project. Now barely a nine-month working period is left for the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre to call the shots but the ambitious project is seen nowhere near. As things stand as of now, the DPR of the project is not likely to come up in the remaining nine-month working period of the BJP-led government at the Centre.
When contacted on the project, it has come to light that the State Water Resource Department has been in dark on the fate awaiting the project. It has let this reporter know that it has no information on WAPCOS preparing the DPR of the project. The agency does not also bother to keep in touch with Dispur on the DPR issue.

Even as experts differ in their opinions on a major dredging of the Brahmaputra bed, the survey conducted by the State Water Resources Department has said that an expressway on either bank of the mighty river is feasible.

According to the preliminary survey of the project conducted by the State Water Resources Department, the length of the two expressways one on either bank of the Brahmaputra will be about 1,300 km. The cost of the two roads is estimated to be in the range of Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 50,000 crore.

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Ankur Kalita