Green activists slam Chure road plan

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Jun 1, 2018-Environmentalists on Thursday criticised the plan to build Madan Bhandari Highway through the fragile Chure area.The new road project will connect Shantinagar in Jhapa to Rupal in Dadeldhura traversing from east to west in Chure.

The highway that will pass through Chure range, which is already facing massive environmental degradation, deforestation, excessive mining of sand and other riverbed aggregates, will inflict more damage, warn conservationists.

Chure conservationist and former member of President Chure-Tarai Madhesh Conservation Development Board (PCTMCDB) Bijaya Kumar Singh Danuwar said constructing the road in Chure would be a disaster for the region and people living downstream.

“Chure is the most fragile area. If the road is built, it will inflict another disaster on the area. Water resources would dry in Madhes region and it would trigger other environmental calamities.“The road project will also increase the population as it happened in the East-West highway. The migrant population would rely on the Chure area for water, firewood and timber. This would lead to deforestation.

The government has allocated Rs 4.5 billion for the new highway. It wants to develop an industrial corridor, connecting valleys of Chure and inner-Madhesh. The 1,200-km highway will have 11 sections.

Other experts questioned the need to build a road in the region that spans nearly 50km. It already has other parallel road networks.

Environmentalist and team leader of the 20-year Chure-Tarai Madhesh Conservation and Management Master Plan Preparation Team Binod Bhatta said stakeholders should discuss whether a new road is necessary in the fragile zone. Constructing road is neither economically viable nor environmentally fair, he said.

The Chure area that spans 50 km north-south already has East-West Highway, Postal Highway, underway East-West Railway and Mid-Hill Highway. As mentioned in the 20-year Chure conservation Master Plan, the total length of the road is 6,576.62 km in the 363 parts of Chure region.

“Another road in the same area will inflict irreversible damage to the vulnerable Chure belt. It is certainly not required. There are parallel road projects between Chure foothills and Tarai,” said Bhatta.

Existing roads in Chure and others, connecting north to south, should be upgraded, he suggested.

The government plans to construct the road in the next 10 years. The 320-km Dharan-Chatara-Gaighat-Sindhuli to Hetauda road, which is under construction, will finish in the next three years.

The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Spokesperson Rajendra Raj Sharma said the road project would require nearly Rs 200 billion. The Dharan-Chatara-Hetauda section will cost Rs 15 billion.

“The government is aware about the possible environmental degradation. Required mitigation measures will be adopted to minimise environmental damage,” said Sharma. The same stretch has suffered many landslides. Once completed, the road will work as dam and cause water logging, said Bhatta.

“The construction of the structure will result in water-logging in several places. Once the water pressure increases, it will damage the road, and also cause unprecedented damage to properties downstream,” he warned.Ropeway could be viable transport option for the range, suggests Bhatta.

Published: 01-06-2018 07:02

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