By Our Reporter
SHILLONG: In what can be termed as a major sigh of relief for the State Government, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has asserted that the agency can neither cancel the Umiam-Jorabat four-laning project nor it can change the alignment of the project.
A senior NHAI official involved with the project on Thursday allayed all fears that the project might be cancelled by NHAI within November this year if the State Government delays the handing over of Umsning Bypass land for the project.
The NGOs in Ri-Bhoi are raising fears that that the NHAI might cancel the project if the State Government changes the alignment of the mega project from the Umsning Bypass to the existing Umsning road.
However, the NHAI has reiterated that the alignment of the project cannot be changed since the survey was done way back in 2003 through the Umsning Bypass.
“We cannot cancel the project. We cannot even change the alignment,” the NHAI official said here on Thursday, requesting anonymity.
The four-laning project has created a major controversy after the State Government decided to construct the road from the existing Umsning road even as the DPRs were prepared from the Umsning Bypass.
“We are still committed to completing the four-laning for the people of Meghalaya,” the NHAI official added here on Thursday.
NGOs under the banner of Joint Action Committee (JAC) have called for night road blockades and bandh in the entire district of Ri-Bhoi as a mark of protest against the Government decision.
The NHAI also demanded that the land for the Umsning Bypass should be handed over to it urgently for timely completion of the project.
Reacting to a query about the compensation to be paid to the land owners of Umsning Bypass, the official said the amount has already been handed over to the Deputy Commissioner of Ri-Bhoi district few years back.
“If they want more money they can write to us,” the NHAI official said.
Pointing out that the delay in handing over the particular land would only lead to time and cost escalation the official said the State Government, earlier, had signed an agreement with the Central Government that it would extend all help on any mega road project.
“If the Meghalaya Government is not supporting us then we are not at fault,” he added.
It is learnt that the expenses will escalate if the alignment of the highway is shifted from the Bypass to the existing road via Umsning.
The State Government officials and NHAI are likely to meet next month to discuss the contentious issues linked to the project.