Ranchi, July 10: In a fillip to national highways in Jharkhand, the Union ministry of environment and forests today gave its final environmental clearance for widening an 80km stretch of NH-33 between Ranchi and Jamshedpur, delay over which has held up the Rs 1,500 crore-plus project since April 2011.
A committee on infrastructure, chaired by former IAS Naresh Dayal, recommended the environment clearance for the Ranchi-Rargaon section of NH-33. Environmental clearance for another 80km stretch from Rargaon to Mohulia, on the outskirts of Jamshedpur, had already been obtained.
"The ministry has accepted our proposal of environmental clearance with certain general conditions required for every road project. But the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will be able to give letter of appointment to the selected concessionaire (Madhucon Projects Limited) only after a final forest clearance," said a highly placed NHAI source in Delhi.
In another development, an initial level of environment clearance, referred to as term of reference approval, was also granted for the proposed Chas-Ramgarh two-lane project. The 85km stretch falling under NH-23 has been so far maintained by the national highways wing of the state road construction department.
Sources said though the clearances recommended today would boost the pending four-laning project, the main task of securing forest clearance had to be fast-tracked.
The project has been delayed inordinately although NHAI had shortlisted construction major Madhucon Projects Limited almost one and a half years ago.
NHAI deputy general manager (environment) B. Mukhopadhyay and its Jharkhand project director Awadhesh Kumar, who oversees the proposed 163km four-laning project, were present.
Delhi-based NHAI general manager A. Srivastava, who is looking after the projects in Jharkhand and Bihar, confirmed today's environment clearance for the Ranchi-Rargaon section.
On July 5, chief minister Arjun Munda had chaired a meeting with the authorities involved with the projects. Munda had directed the officials to ensure that work on the project should start latest by August, adding that the state had requested the Centre to expedite the forest clearances.
The meeting was attended by principal chief conservator of forests A.K. Mishra, Madhucon Projects Limited managing director N. Seethaiah, his principal secretary D.K. Tiwary among others.
According to land records, a total of 38 hectares falling between Ranchi and Rargaon were forestland and hence, a clearance from MoEF was necessary.
Of late, the two proposed phases of Ranchi ring road were included in the four-laning project. It will be an entirely new 25km alignment connecting NH-33 near Vikas Vidyalaya (Ranchi-Hazaribagh road) and Rampur (Ranchi-Jamshedpur road).
On April 2011, Ranchi Expressway Ltd, a special purpose vehicle of Madhucon Projects Ltd, had signed the concession agreement with NHAI for four-laning of the project under BOT-Annuity basis with semi-annuity of Rs 133.50 crore.
The concession period was of 15 years, including construction period of 912 days. It will be onus of the company to manage and maintain the road for 15 years.