Sluggish land acquisition hits Yogi's flagship Rs 190 billion infra project

(Representative image)
Purvanchal Expressway, a flagship project of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath estimated to cost Rs 190 billion is getting inordinately delayed over sluggish land acquisition even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is due to complete a year in office on March 19.

A total of 4,332 hectares are required for the project, comprising both private and government land. Land cost alone is expected to cost nearly Rs 65 billion of the total project cost.

The Purvanchal Expressway project was projected to be launched before March 2018. As per norms, an expressway project could be launched after 90% of the requisite land had been acquired, while the aggregate land so far acquired for Purvanchal Expressway stands at 84%.

UP industrial development minister Satish Mahana has now directed officials to speed up the land acquisition process while reiterating the project was among the priorities of the government. He has also sought detailed ground report by March 15 and warned against laxity. Besides, he has summoned the concerned divisional commissioners and district magistrates, where land acquisition had been the lowest.

A consortium led by top lender State Bank of India (SBI) would give a credit line of Rs 150 billion for the project, which is expected to transform the socioeconomics of the impoverished Eastern UP (Purvanchal) region.

Adityanath has announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be invited to inaugurate the mega project.

Meanwhile, UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) CEO Awanish Awasthi told Business Standard almost 91% of private land required for the project had been acquired. “In some districts, the total land acquisition is as high as 97%, although the aggregate land acquisition across the districts along its route is about 84%.”

The proposed 340 km expressway would traverse nine districts viz. Lucknow, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkarnagar, Amethi, Sultanpur, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur. Besides, the expressway would connect all important towns in its periphery viz. Varanasi, Ayodhya, Allahabad and Gorakhpur through link roads.
The government has divided the project into 8 packages, for which developers would be selected through competitive bidding.

The expressway is projected to have a 3 km long runway at Kudebhar (Sultanpur) for the landing and take-off by fighter planes during emergencies. The Agra-Lucknow Expressway already has similar infrastructure at Unnao district.

Purvanchal Expressway, once completed, would be the country’s largest access controlled expressway and cut travel time between Ghazipur and Lucknow to less than 5 hrs. The expressway would incorporate provisions, which could be harnessed to lay oil/gas pipeline in future if required.

Purvanchal Expressway project was proposed during the previous Akhilesh Yadav led Samajwadi Party (SP) regime (2012-17) as Samajwadi Purvanchal Expressway. The Yadav government had sought Rs 50 billion from the Centre for the expressway. After coming to power, the Adityanath government had dropped Purvanchal from its moniker and terminated it at Ghazipur from its earlier end point of Ballia.

Purvanchal Expressway would provide seamless connectivity between Eastern UP and National Capital Region (NCR) via 165-km Agra-Greater Noida Yamuna Expressway and 302-km Agra-Lucknow Expressway.

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