After many a holdup, Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati's dream project, the eight-lane 1,047 km Ganga Expressway, has run into rough weather following the project developer (Jaypee Associates) withdrawing the R894.75 crore guarantee money.
This is probably the biggest straw in the wind ahead of the assembly elections next month.
According to an official source, the fate of the project - billed as the country's longest expressway - now depends on who forms the next government. "If the BSP retains power, the project is likely to continue. If a new government assumes office, anything is possible, including scrapping of the project."Failure to get environmental clearance from the Centre has, among other issues, waylaid the R40,000-crore project launched in 2007 to link Greater Noida and Ballia. The project was to be completed in four years.
A state government officer said on Thursday, "The developer was allowed to withdraw the performance security amount, the guarantee money deposited due to delay in getting environment clearance from the Centre."
He said the developer had, however, given an undertaking to deposit the security money once the project got the environment clearance.
Mayawati had announced the project on her birthday (January 15) in 2008. The expressway hit a roadblock in 2009 after rival parties as well as farmers of many of the 1,239 villages of 17 districts that were to be affected by the project opposed land acquisition.
The protests resulted in a petition before Allahabad high court in May 2009. The court restrained the state from proceeding with the project and directed it to get environmental clearance from the Centre.
In April 2011, Jaypee Associates had applied for the environment clearance with the Centre, but were told the state government had to seek the nod.
"Since the project was delayed, it was not possible to hold back the money," a Jaypee Associates official who did not want to be identified said.
A state government official said the decision to return the guarantee money was taken in December 2011, ahead of the (December 24) announcement of poll dates.