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Public hearing may set ball rolling for semi-ring road

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If the roadmap devised by the district administration and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to complete the long-pending semi-ring road project is implemented, choked Trichy would heave a sigh of relief. The district administration said that it is all set to conduct a public hearing within a month to discuss the realigned semi-ring road project for the stretch from Jeeyapuram to Panchapur, and subsequently to avail the environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Though Trichy has its own advantage of being located at the centre of the state, the very same geographical significance happens to be a blemish owing to the absence of appropriate road infrastructure. With a floating population of around 5 lakh a day, the pending road projects add to the the traffic congestion in the city.

The semi-ring road project, in other words NH67 expansion project, linking five National Highways from Thuvakudi to Jeeyapuram was proposed by NHAI in 2007. However, the Rs 300-crore project has been dragging on for the past 10 years owing to protest by farmers and poor planning. The project was legally grounded by farmers in 2009 after obtaining a stay order from the Madurai bench of the Madras high court by citing the environmental impact it causes to waterbodies around its path.
A year later, an expert committee including representatives from the Centre for Water Resources, Anna University surveyed the proposed site and gave three options for the project to go ahead.
The proposed highway should not pass through the tanks (as many as 13 tanks) and make a new alignment which should be designed along the boundaries of tanks without affecting the flow of water. The panel also proposed to construct bridges across the waterbodies if it is not possible to realign the highway away from them.

The NHAI officials said that they opted to realign the NH67 expansion work by making the link road to pass along the boundaries of the waterbodies. Even after that, the project did not see any momentum for the past five years. But as a latest development, the district administration has said that a public hearing would be conducted in April.

"We have been expediting the administrative works to conduct the public hearing meeting. Once the meeting is conducted, we can expect the clearance from MoEF between May and June this year," district collector K Rajamani said. NHAI sources also added that land acquisition process after the clearance would start between June and July. "We need to acquire 46 hectares of land for completing the realigned stretch," NHAI sources in Karur PIU said.

For resuming the works on the other stretch of the semi-ring road from Panchapur to Thuvakudi, the contractor concerned is awaiting funds to the tune of Rs 90 crore. As the Madurai NHAI PIU was in-charge to oversee the stretch of the semi-ring road, it is said that a new project director was appointed for the Karaikudi NHAI PIU to expedite the pending works of Panchapur-Thuvakudi stretch.
The district administration has asserted that the semi-ring road project will be monitored continuously till the completion of the pending works.

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