In view of the delay to start the four-lane road project from Rilbong to Dawki, the Meghalaya High Court has set timelines for the State government to resolve the land acquisition disputes in various packages.
During the hearing of a PIL on the matter today, the division bench of the High Court expressed displeasure with the delay of the highway project.
The four-lane project has five packages. These include Rilbong to Mylliem Marbaniang covering 11.6 km, Mylliem Marbaniang to Wahlyngkhat of a length of 26.55 km, Wahlyngkhat to Siatbakon covering a bypass of 8 km, Siatbakon to Wahkdait of a length of 17.77 km, and Wahkdait to Tamabil in Dawki of a length of 7.99 km.
Of the five packages, the contract for the Rilbong to Mylliem Marbaniang stretch is due to be awarded, subject to receipt of adequate response by March, 2023.
The second package awaits land acquisition in seven pockets covering a length of 1.30 km, shifting of pipelines and removal of some electric poles. The State government has assured the court that the seven pockets of disputes pertaining to land acquisition will be resolved by the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills as expeditiously as possible. The court also said that such exercise should be completed by the end of April 2023.
In addition, the State says that the shifting of pipelines and the electric poles will be completed by the Public Health Engineering Department and the Meghalaya Power Distribution Company Limited, respectively, by the end of this financial year.
The third package of 8 km (Wahlyngkhat to Siatbakon) envisages the construction of a bypass and land acquisition is pending for the entire stretch.
“It would be a shame if the other parts are completed and the entire work is stalled because of land being unavailable or acquisition thereof being incomplete in respect of the 8-km stretch,” the High Court said.
The court also directed the State government to “use its resources and authority to complete the acquisition proceedings as expeditiously as possible” by the end of June 2023 so that the work for such stretch can be taken up immediately thereafter.
For the fourth package of 17.77 km (Siatbakon to Wahkdait) there is a dispute pertaining to the land covering 0.710 km. The court directed that the dispute should be resolved by the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills with the 25 landowners by the end of April 2023.
For a further 0.120 km, the court directed that acquisition proceedings should also be completed expeditiously and before the end of June 2023.
For the fifth package (Wahkdait to Tamabil in Dawki) some small portions of the land remain unacquired due to the disputes raised by erstwhile landowners. The High Court directed the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills to resolve the issue by the end of April 2023.
During today’s hearing, the State government assured the High Court that all necessary assistance will be rendered in the urgent acquisition and the like for National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) to undertake the work and complete the same as expeditiously as possible.
The court also asked NHIDCL to complete all preparatory steps so that notices inviting tender may be issued immediately after completion of land acquisition.
“The widening and realignment of the Shillong to Dawki road will give a big boost to the State and aid in greater accessibility. The corridor is right for environment-friendly industries to be set up. All authorities concerned should put their best foot forward to ensure that the entire project is completed without undue delay so that the incidental and related benefits can be enjoyed by the citizens living or working on or along the route,” the court said.
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