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20,000 acres, 25k trees to go for B’luru-Pune expressway

The 719.26-km toll road will be developed as six-lane, but with additional space for upgrading to eight-lane road.
Last Updated : 24 July 2023, 22:51 IST
Last Updated : 24 July 2023, 22:51 IST
Last Updated : 24 July 2023, 22:51 IST
Last Updated : 24 July 2023, 22:51 IST

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Nearly 20,000 acres of green fields in Karnataka, including 383 acres of forest land, are required for the new Pune-Bengaluru expressway, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has said.

The 719.26-km toll road will be developed as six-lane, but with additional space for upgrading to eight-lane road.

It passes through nine districts in Karnataka, which will lose 12,355 acres and three districts in Maharashtra, which will lose 7,166 acres.

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project is yet to be finalised, but NHAI officials estimate that the project will require the felling of 25,000 trees, 60% of which are in Karnataka.

The highway will not cut through any protected area or sanctuary in both states, but the alignment is 12 km away from the Koyna wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra.

As many as 444 water bodies in Karnataka, including 19 rivers and 53 canals, and 126 water bodies in Maharashtra (9 rivers and 36 canals) exist on the proposed alignment.

The highway authorities have proposed to construct hundreds of structures to mitigate the damage.

In Karnataka, the expressway will begin near Hulikunte, in between Dobbspet and Doddaballapur, and end near Shivare in Maharashtra.

“The proposed access controlled project with new alignment has been envisaged through an area which shall have the advantage of simultaneous development as well as resulting in a shorter travel distance,” the NHAI said in a submission to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

Estimated to cost Rs 55,072.54 crore, the road has been planned as a “prime artery for economic flow” with better transportation facilities.

Officials estimate the construction period at 2.5 years. The work will begin after obtaining the environment and forest clearances.

Activist Dattatreya T Devare, a Punekar settled in Bengaluru, said a project that requires huge amounts of resources and investment needs convincing justification based on expert advice and genuine stakeholder consultation.

“The present road between Bengaluru and Pune (NH-48) is not crowded, except near city centres. We hope the government has adequate details to justify the need for such investment. The benefits described by the NHAI are not quantifiable and are opaque,” he said.

Leo Saldanha, coordinator of Environment Support Group (ESG), said it was worrying to see NHAI terming empty grasslands as barren waste land.

“Such lands bear a rich ecology and support rural communities in many ways. The 100-metre road will destroy the ecosystem and directly affect livelihoods. Instead of pushing contractor-driven projects, the government should focus on removing bottlenecks in the existing highway, whose capacity is otherwise underutilised,” he said.

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Published 24 July 2023, 16:37 IST

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