MumbaiThe Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) will soon control nearly 25,920 acres of land designated for the proposed smart cities along the 701-km Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway. Reason: To regulate development in the proposed cities. The agency has sent a proposal to the state to give it status of a special planning authority.This means farmers will now have to seek approval from the MSRDC for land deals or any development plans on their own plots. Affected farmers are already protesting the highway, estimated to cost Rs46,000 crore, and the proposed land acquisition. They have found backing from the Opposition and the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally. “The proposal is under active consideration by the government. We have sought special planning authority status to ensure there is no haphazard development in these nodes, which will be developed as agro prosperity centres,’’ said Kiran Kurundkar, joint managing director of MSRDC. As a special planning authority, all land and town planning approvals within the specified areas will be under the MSRDC’s purview. The agency will delineate spaces for requisite highway amenities, residential, agro industrial, commercial areas within these nodes, which fall primarily in rural areas.Kurundkar said a development blueprint for every node will be finalised by the MSRDC once it gets the special tag.Termed as a game changer by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, the highway will link underdeveloped areas such as Vidarbha and Marathwada to Thane and Mumbai.The proposal is being considered by the state’s urban development department and a notification under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act is likely soon, said sources in the government.The project envisages special nodes or smart cities every 30 km to 40 km along the 701 kms alignment, to be developed as agro production hubs besides having 50% residential component. Faced with opposition and a tepid response for land pooling option, the MSRDC has now put its plans of acquiring land for the nodes on the back burner or for phase II of the project. However, the agency claims to have met with success in six nodes, where the land pooling option has been feasible. The six nodes in Thane (two in this district), Wardha, Buldhana, Nagpur will be developed first. It is now focusing on acquiring 24,048 acres of land required for the right of way and highway amenities. The agency hopes to start work on the project by October this year and complete the highway by October 2019, before the next assembly polls.