New Delhi: The work on proposed 216 km long Upper Ganga Canal (UGC) Expressway cannot be started before the upcoming Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh as the project is not getting clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests on the grounds of wildlife and environment protection.

The ambitious project of the Uttar Pradesh government, which was proposed in 2009, has been put on hold following objections for two reasons including the deforestation of more than one lakh trees along the canal and effect on the wildlife as the expressway is proposed to be built within 10km radius of Hastinapur wildlife sanctuary at different locations from Moradnagar to Purkaji.

The 8-lane UGC expressway which is to be constructed along the right bank of River Ganga extends from Sanuata Bridge in Greater Noida to Purkaji in Muzaffarnagar district near the Uttarakhand border. Mayawati led UP government aims at providing faster connectivity from Delhi-NCR to Uttarakhand. It will be connected to Yamuna Expressway and Ganga Expressway through the Eastern Peripheral Expressway.

The project that was estimated to cost Rs 494 crores in 2009, will now increase the burden on the state government by Rs 9, 000 crore.

According to MoEF, any form of construction within 10 km radius of the sanctuary is prohibited and the chop down of trees on such a large extent will add on to the woes of the environmental concerns.

The Uttar Pradesh Expressway Infrastructure Development Authority had issued request of proposal for the bidding following which seven major companies including Reliance Infrastructure, Jai Prakash Associates, IRB Infrastructure etc had participated in the first phase of the bidding process.

But the financial bidding process was deferred due to the emerging objections from the Ministry.

However, the Forest Department has suggested various options to reduce the loss to the green belt, including reducing the width of the expressway from eight lanes to six lanes. But the UP government refused to accept the suggestions on the grounds that the reduction will not satisfy the motive of the project.

Moreover, the steering committee of National Board for Wildlife on April 25 had given clear indication to the state that clearance from the ministry is must for going on with the project.

Observing further deferment in the project, the state government had planned compensatory afforestation in about 1,100 hectares of gram sabha land in four districts of Bundelkhand including Banda, Chitrakoot, Hamirpur and Mahoba for the loss of green belt.

But unless the work on compensatory forestation is not completed the work on the project cannot be started.