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Tiger mitigation measures may hike NHAI road projects

Cost of two road projects being implemented by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in the region may go up by over `100 crore each due to mitigation measures needed to be taken on account of tiger corridors, say sources.

Cost of two road projects being implemented by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in the region may go up by over `100 crore each due to mitigation measures needed to be taken on account of tiger corridors, say sources.

Work on the roads from Nagpur to Katol, and Bamni (near Ballarshah) to Lakkadkot near Telangana border has been put on hold for nearly a year. The present cost of the projects stand at over `600 crore and `800 crore respectively. A further addition is likely on account of the mitigation measures, said sources.

The final estimates will be made at a later stage. However, the escalation may be in the range of 20% to 25% of the original cost, they added. In the Nagpur-Katol project, the question of tiger corridor came up after the stage 2 forest clearance was granted. A stage 2 clearance is the final approval granted after ensuring that all the conditions required have been met. For the Nagpur-Katol Road, the stage 2 clearance was received in September 2021. Later in January 2022, the forest department informed the NHAI that a wildlife clearance too is needed for the project.

The reason given was that around 12km of the road comes under tiger corridor and separate mitigation measures like construction of wildlife underpasses will be needed for the stretch. By that time the NHAI had already appointed the concessionaire for carrying out the work. The proposal is now lying with the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) while the NHAI plays the waiting game. Sources said that had it been informed about the presence of tigers at the initial stage, the NHAI could have changed the alignment adopting an alternate route. On the other hand, sources in the forest department said that the tiger corridors have been notified on the basis of a report of eastern Vidarbha landscape made by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

The report came into implementation after the stage 2 clearance was given to the Nagpur-Katol Road project. In Bamni-Lakkadkot, the four-laning of the existing two-lane road also awaits clearance. Here, the stage 1 clearance was granted in September 2022. The NHAI was first informed that only 1.6 km of the 33km road comes under the tiger corridor grid. However, subsequently it was pointed out that the road passes through a tiger corridor running up to 22km and mitigation measures will have to be taken accordingly. The agreement was signed in May 2022. The work cannot start till an approval from NBWL is granted, said sources.

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