Twelve years after it was first proposed, the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, a six-lane solution to unclog roads and curb record pollution levels in Delhi, received the green signal from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
An official statement said the 135-km project would cost Rs 7,558 crore — including Rs 1,795.2 crore for land acquisition, resettlement, rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities — and be developed on an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) basis.
“The road (connecting Palwal to Kundli in Haryana via UP’s Ghaziabad) is a peripheral road around Delhi, so that the traffic which is not destined for Delhi does not pass through this city. This will avoid congestion and pollution in the city,” the statement added.
Welcoming the move, Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari posted on Twitter that the committee “today took an important decision of developing the Eastern peripheral expressway… This historical decision will decongest our national capital region”.
In January, a three-judge Supreme Court bench had ordered the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to wrap up the project on or before July 30, 2018.
NHAI sources said the project will now take off within three months after the tendering process is completed.
The Indian Express had reported on April 3, as part of its Death By Breath series, that the eastern and western peripheral roads were crucial to control vehicular pollution in Delhi — currently, an estimated 80,000 goods trucks pass through the capital every night.
The two roads were first proposed by the Environmental Pollution and Control Authority (EPCA) in 2003. Two years later, the Supreme Court issued orders for their construction.
The western expressway — Kundli to Palwal via Manesar in Haryana — is about 68% complete with Haryana government oficials saying that it has been upgraded to a six-lane highway. Tenders have been allotted for work on the remaining stretch which is expected to start next month, they added.
Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai said that the eastern expressway would help control the “alarming pollution levels in the capital”.
“But when we had a meeting with Gadkari ji, we told him that the western expressway also needs to be constructed soon to check pollution. The transport ministers of Delhi, UP and Haryana had jointly made this suggestion. We hope the Centre will act on it fast,” Rai said.
Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit termed the move as a “very welcome step” and added that in the past the “urgency of the Expressway” was “probably not felt” by the Central government — the Congress-led UPA was at the helm from 2004-2014.
“This is a very welcome step and it would lead to great relief for commuters in Delhi and outside Delhi, provided it’s completed in time. In the past, there was work taking place on the Metro and therefore the urgency of it was probably not felt by the Central government. It meant a lot of expenditure but now that the government of India has accepted the urgency of the situation, it would make life a lot easier for commuters,” she said.
Delhi’s Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Mukesh Chander said the Cabinet committee’s decision would “help reduce pollution drastically”. “Delhi, unlike other cities, doesn’t have a bypass like the one that has been proposed. The expressway will go a long way in decongesting east Delhi by diverting vehicles from UP, Haryana and Rajasthan and neighbouring states off Delhi roads,” Chander said.
Experts said that the expressway would help in “realigning” vehicular movement through the capital.
“Delhi is uniquely placed because one cuts across Delhi to access other parts of the country. Consequently, a huge influx of trucks enters the capital. The main objective of the plan was to realign this truck movement but there were huge delays and since then the problem has grown. Now it (the expressway) needs to be conducted in an expedited and time-bound fashion,” said Anumita Roychoudhury, executive director-research, Centre for Science and Environment.
Truck unions also welcomed the move and said the project should take place in a time-bound manner.
“While we welcome the move, the question of how long it will take to complete remains to be answered. The Supreme Court had asked for the expressways to be completed 10 years ago, but nothing happened. Now trucks are forced to enter Delhi and pay the taxes levied on us,” said Naveen Gupta, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC).