After the proposed Ganga Expressway Project (GEP), the Uttar Pradesh government has been forced to put brakes on another ambitious highways project, Upper Ganga Canal Expressway (UGCE), pending clearance by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The 150-km UGCE flanking Upper Ganga Canal is proposed from Sanauta Bridge (Greater Noida) to Purkazi (Muzaffarnagar) near the UP-Uttarakhand border.
The Union environment ministry has asked Uttar Pradesh to resend the proposal for the project as a composite project rather than in five parts corresponding to the five districts along the route viz, Gautam Budh Nagar (Greater Noida), Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar.
UGCE is aimed at decongesting National Highway (NH) 58, especially during the sugarcane crushing season. The government decided to go ahead with the UGCE, as it does not have any land acquisition issues involved.
UP irrigation department owns all the necessary land for the access-controlled UGC.
Six companies viz, Isolux Corsan, Gurgaon; Era–Sibmost joint venture (JV), Noida; DSC–Apollo JV, Gurgaon; IRB Infrastructure Developers Limited, Mumbai; Jaiprakash Associates, Noida; and Reliance Infrastructure, Mumbai have already qualified the preliminary bid round and are eligible for the Request for Proposal (RfP) stage.
The purpose of the Union environment ministry’s missive was to ensure that no non-forest activity was carried on along the stretch of land, unless cleared by the Centre.
The state government had requested for permission from the environment ministry on April 6, 2010 with an application to change the use of forest land into non-forest land district wise to give shape to UGCE.
The state government is taking necessary steps to comply with the central directive. An official communiqué said so far no construction work at the UGCE project site had been undertaken.
UGCE is covered under Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2009 in group-A. The project is estimated at over Rs 6,000 crore. The project concessionaire will also be able to generate hydro-electricity along the stream.
The work on the Rs 30,000 crore GEP was halted on May 29, 2009, when Allahabad High Court ordered UP to get the project cleared by the environment ministry. Besides, it has been facing land acquisition hurdles.
The HC had ordered for halting the project on separate petitions filed by Vindhya Environmental Society (VEM), Mirzapur and Hindu Mahasabha questioning the environmental feasibility of the project. It quashed the earlier environmental clearance noting there were gaps in the preliminary clearance, wherein some procedures had been bypassed or short-circuited.
The alignment process by concessionaire Jaiprakash Associates was nearing completion, when the order came.
The 1, 047 km GEP between Greater Noida and Ballia will traverse Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Badaun, Kanshi Ram Nagar, Farrukhabad, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh, Allahabad, Mirzapur, Sant Ravi Das Nagar, Varanasi and Ghazipur districts.