Tuesday, April 20, 2010

National Highway can be widened without dislocating large masses of people

A few hours before the all-party meeting called by the Kerala government to consider people’s opposition to the proposal to widen two national highways in the State on BOT (build, operate, transfer) basis, representatives of people engaged in movements against the proposal began a day-long dharna outside the State Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram.

According to media reports, Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan decided to call today's all-party meeting after three ministers, G. Sudhakaran, C. Divakaran and N. K. Premachandran, drew his attention at a Cabinet meeting to the agitations at different places along the highways against the proposal.

These ministers represent constituencies through which the coastal highway runs. People started agitating against the proposal in these constituencies five years ago. As officials took up acquisition of land up to 45 meters in width in pursuance of the BOT proposal there was tension at many places. But it is only now that the ministers have taken note of the situation.

Representatives of the agitating groups called on the leaders of all parties before the all-party meeting and reiterated their total opposition to the BOT proposal. They pointed out that acquisition of 45 meters was not necessary as four or even six lanes according to the specifications laid down by the government can be built in 30 meters. Except in a few places the government has already in its possession up to 30 meters of land.

The NH 17 Kerala State Action Council placed before them an alternative proposal which will make it possible to widen the highway without dislocating large masses of people. The following are the salient points made by them in a written memorandum:

1. Build four-lane path immediately in the 30 meter wide land already acquired.

2. Up to six lanes can be built in 30 meters. The move to acquire 45 meters is meant to satisfy the BOT partner, whose entry will mean privatization of the highway.

3. Now the cost of bus travel is Rs. 5 for every 10 kilometers. It will double if there is a BOT road.

4. Population density in the areas through which the highways pass in the State is between 2,000 and 3,000 per square kilometer. The highway expansion project report says widening of a one-kilometer stretch will affect 310 families, 1,076 people and 51 buildings. This means along the 840 kilometers of NH 47 and NH as many as 17 257,300 families, 903,840 people and 42,840 buildings will be affected. Actually twice as many families, people and buildings will be affected.

5. By an order dated 18.10.2007 the government has frozen building activity up to a width of 90 meters along the highways. The people cannot build houses or shops in this area. This will destroy the small businesses.

6. The government is to give 40 per cent of the construction cost to the BOT partner as grant. The contractor will be able to cook up figures and do the entire work with the money provided by the government with no investment from his side.

A sketch prepared by the action council shows how a six-lane path can be built in 30 meters. With 3.5 meters specified for a lane, the land required for six lanes is 21 meters. The median will take up 1.5 meters. That still leaves enough for a paved shoulder 1.5 meter wide and a footpath-cum-utility of 2.25 meters on either side.


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shajiantony said...

It is necessary to widen National Highways for the safety of the users and development of our state. While all other states are going ahead, and if we stick on with 30 meter, it will be a big mistake. If it is difficult to widen existing Highways, WHY CAN NOT THINK ABOUT A NEW HIGHWAY THROUGH LESS POPULATED AREA?
May be new expressway will be better to reduce accidents than widen the existing highways. Think about high speed vehicle through highly populated area.

Chandran said...

I would like to ask the author, if 2 meters is specified for a lane a road with how many lanes can be built?

sudheer-elite said...

The new decision taken by the whole party meeting to fix the width by 45 meters is absolutely wrong. I am not ageanst a development, especially in the case of National Highway as we are very backward on this. But since 30meters are enough to build a 6 line highway including all the amneties, and by considering the special circumstances kerala central authorities shouldnt stick on 45 meter issue. The authority has to consider that the neighbourhood landowners had given land for highway expansion about 30 years ago. Those land is still remain useless and no any expansion had done on it. If somebody ask them to sacrifies again, that will be bit hard for them. The market value of the land along the highways are from 5,00,000 to 60,00,000 per cent. Whatever package the authorities should be going to declare will not sifficient to them. They will become homeless as they could not buy a land with the amount of compensation.

The interesting thing is that there was not detailed, accurate feasibility study had done in this matter.

So I would like the reader to speak against the new acquision of land more than 30 meters.