J&K Government on Saturday said it would study ecological impact of a proposal by New Delhi for construction of eight highways in the State before clearing them.
The Union Ministry for Roads and Highways has approved eight new highways in J&K, three each in Kashmir and Jammu and two in Ladakh under National Highway Program and communicated to the state government about the planned projects.
"We will first study and evaluate the environmental and other impacts of the proposal before taking a call on it," said Minister for R&B, Altaf Bukhari.
The highways approved by New Delhi include Panchtarni-Chandanwari-Pahalgam-Batakut-Martand-Khanabal road to Shri Amarnath Shrine, Baramulla-Rafiabad-Kupwara-Tanghdar road and Srinagar-Shopian-Qazigund road in Kashmir and Domail-Katra-Reasi-Pouni road, Jammu-Akhnoor-Nowshera-Rajouri-Poonch road and
Batote-Chenani-SudhMahadev-Khelani-Doda-Kishtwar-Synthan-Khanabal road in Jammu and Kargil-Zanskar highway and Leh-Debring-Mulden highway in Ladakh.
The Minister said the Government would assess in detail the impact of the proposal on agriculture, orchards, water bodies and states forest cover.
"The projects will be evaluated on individual basis. The environmental concern has grown more in view of the recent floods in Jammu and Kashmir," said the Minister.
A senior official in the R&B Department said that New Delhi has communicated the proposal to the State Government.
"As per the proposal all these highways will be cent percent funded by the center and the central government agencies would be directly involved in their construction," said the official.
However he said the Ministry for Roads and Highways would require prior approval from State Government for moving ahead on the projects.
Most of these highways would cut through vast areas of forest and would require felling of forest trees at large scale, the official said.
"The R&B Department would take on board other concerned departments including forests and wildlife while taking final call on the proposed projects," the official said.
During National Conference-Congress rule, New Delhi had twice shot communication to State Government seeking clearance for construction of Khanabal-Pahalgam-Panchtarni road in south Kashmir's Anantnag (Islamabad) district under the National Highway Program.
The proposal was turned down by Omar Abdullah-led Government under the Congress led UPA Government in New Delhi on one occasion and when BJP led NDA Government came to power, the proposal again got shelved as State went for Assembly polls last year.
"That time (in 2014) the State Government opposed the proposal (of
Khanabal-Pahalgam-Panchtarni road) citing host of environmental issues. The J&K government had also cited that the matter had come up for discussion during a meeting of the then Cabinet Secretary (GoI) with the State Chief Secretary," the official said.
Under the new proposal, the Union Ministry has once again pushed for construction of Khanabal-Pahalgam-Panchtarni road.
Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday said he was not aware about the approval to the projects by New Delhi.
"The R&B Department deals with it," he said.