MUMBAI: For the adventure tourists, one of world’s longest (407m) glass-paved (transparent) skywalks over the Chikhaldara valley (590 feet deep) in Melghat Tiger Reserve near Amravati will offer a thrilling experience from mid 2023.
After the MoEF granted its first clearance in January which was pending for a year as the entire zone being a forest reserve, the proposal is all set to get the clearance at the state wildlife board headed by CM.
This glasswalk could be the second in the country after the first one in Sikkim and probably the longest than the ones that exist in (360m) China and (397m) Switzerland . The Rs35-crore project in the valley is part of the eco-sensitive and buffer zone of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR).
According to Devendra Jamnikar, Cidco’s executive engineer for the project, this will be the world’s first single cable rope suspension bridge (skywalk) with glass-paving 100 meter long. He said the project, which stands half-built with pillars on both ends of the Chikhaldara valley (Hurricane point and Goreghat point), has finally crossed the first hurdle by getting forest clearance in the tiger land. The mega project will soon go in for wildlife clearance from the centre once it gets the same from the state wildlife board.
According to sources, environment minister Aditya Thackeray persuaded the centre for the MoEF clearance.
Cidco has given the contract for the project to Apicon Construction Company which had started the work in February 2019. According to Cidco officials, the middle portion of the project will be a 100-metre glass floor while the rest of this 407-metre long bridge will be developed with chequered steel plates to enable air pass-in. There will be chain link fencing on both sides of the project. Two counter anchors are planned by the side of two big pillars to maintain the weight of the bridge. The proposed skywalk will be able to withstand wind speeds of up to 190 kmph.
As per the environment conditions, Cidco has deposited Rs81.86 lakh towards net present value (NPV), compensatory land, and afforestation cost. Over 70% of the civil works have been completed on the chikhaldara valley top which is a revenue land. “We expect wildlife clearances before the onset of monsoon. Once we start the work in October, it should be over by July next year for the tourists who visit the Melghat/Narnala tiger reserves in large numbers,” said Jamnikar.
According to sources Cidco may have to deposit an additional 2% of the project cost for wildlife habitat management practices. Most such projects in other countries are double cable bridges whereas Chikhaldara will be single cable. “Chikhaldara is the only hill station in Vidarbha (near Nagpur, Amravati, Akola) and adjoining Marathwada (Aurangabad, Latur, Nanded, Osmanabad) region and since it is close to Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Mahamarg the project has huge potential to boost tourism and direct and indirect employment through tourism.
“We expect footfall of tourists to more than double once the project gets completed,” said Jamnikar. During tourist season — monsoon and winter– around 20000 tourists visit the tiger reserve every month. Cidco has already spent over Rs25 crore on the project. The MTR also offers an abundance of wildlife, viewpoints, lakes and waterfalls.