ALPAIGURI: Plans for an alternative highway to carry troops to Sikkim, suspended three years ago, have been revived following the recent escalation in Indo-China border tensions.The road proposal had been put on the back burner in 2014 after green activists objected to its alignment through three major forests.
Sources said a fresh alignment has been drawn for the highway , skirting the Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Neora Valley National Park and Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary , through which it was to pass earlier.
In the first phase, the 124km road will connect Chalsa in Jalpaiguri with Teesta Bazar in Kalimpong via Metialli in Jalpaiguri, Kumai More, Todey , Tangta and Pedong in Kalimpong. In the next phase, it will connect Teesta Bazar with Sikkim.
A meeting was recently held in Metialli, where administrative representatives from Jalpaiguri and Kalimpong districts were present along with gram panchayat pradhans of places through which the proposed road is supposed to pass. Officials of National Highways Authority of India
) and some ministries were present. “Several rounds of public hearings will be held to arrive at a consensus so that the project can begin,” said Jalpaiguri DM Rachna Bhagat.
Sources said the recent flare-up in border tension with China had led to a prod by the defence ministry , which revived the project. The earlier alignment through forests was met with stiff opposition from environment groups, as it would have meant felling several thousand trees. Wildlife activists were also up in arms, as the alignment was to cut through the Chapramari-Panjhora-HilajhoraGorumara National Park elephant corridor that has been used for thousands of years.
The road was to also pass 30km in the core area of Neora Valley forest from Tangta to Zero Point in Rachella. Nearly 200 hectares of greenery had to be sacrificed for the road. The road would also have led to deforestation in Chapramari and Pangolakha
in Sikkim. TOI had highlighted the objections in a report published in January 2014.