Ahead of Goa polls, Gadkari says budget for road developmental works increased to Rs 5,000 crore

Several projects in Goa, including the three linear projects – that cut through the Western Ghats — have come under fire from environmentalists.

Three months ahead of the legislative Assembly election in Goa, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari announced Tuesday that the annual Budget for development works to be carried out by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) in Goa has been increased from Rs. 2,000 crore to Rs 5,000 crore.

Speaking at a hotel in Dona Paula, Gadkari said Zuari Bridge, which is deemed to be a major tourist attraction in the state, will not have a toll plaza at the bridge, although land has been acquired for the purpose. The toll plaza at the state border will continue to be operational, he added.

“The work of the bridge is going well and it of very good quality. However, the consultant for the project is Chinese and there were hurdles for him to get a visa during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the CM has written a letter to the foreign ministry to grant him a visa. I will also send a proposal to the foreign ministry. Almost all hurdles will be out of the way soon and it is our endeavour to open this bridge at the earliest,” Gadkari said Tuesday.

He said the government is aiming to open at least one lane of the cable-suspended bridge by December 10, before the code of conduct kicks in ahead of the Assembly polls in the state.

He added Zuari Bridge – connecting Panaji to Margao – was coming along well and it would be developed as a tourist attraction like the Eifel tower. He further said trees of up to 3 metre height will be planted on both sides of the bridge and landscaping will be done.

“I am also an active environmentalist,” Gadkari said. “We all want to protect the environment but not put a complete stop to all work. The railway (line) was also opposed at first in Goa, now, look how beneficial it has been. I respect all environmental activities,” he said.

Several projects in Goa, including the three linear projects – that cut through the Western Ghats — the doubling of railway tracks, four-laning of a national highway and the Goa-Tanmar Transmission Project — have come under fire from environmentalists.

Gadkari said that Goa activists were “too enthusiastic” as compared to other states. “We all want to conserve and protect the environment but the economy is also important. These projects will also provide employment and livelihoods to the people.”

He said he actively worked towards reducing air, water and sound pollution. “I have a whole committee in my constituency. The loud car horns, sirens…I am going to change that too. They will be easy on the ears. We will bring sounds that will not disturb anyone,” said Gadkari.

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