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Widening NHs – the bottlenecks

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Widening NHs – the bottlenecks
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The government has finally decided to abide by the Central government’s decision to stick to the minimum width of 45 m for developing national highways in the state asking the District collectors to proceed with the required land acquisition ending the uncertainty in the matter.

Around 3400 acres of land along the Kasaragod, Thalappadi to Thiruvananthapuram Kaliyikkavila remains to be acquired. The land for building gas pipelines connecting the Petronet LNG terminal and Mangalore and for sharing power from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power plant would also be acquired. The Chief Minister had said that the land owners would be compensated with the market price in a time bound manner. But the uncertainty remains whether the financially staggering government would be able to pay the market price other than the fair price for the lands acquired. The state government had asked the Centre to allow the development of national highways with 30 m width. But Modi government was adamant on not undertaking any work if the width was below 45 m. According to the Centre, it had already made an exception for states like Kerala and Goa on the prescribed width of the highways thereby agreeing to 45 m width instead of the standard 60 m.

The public, social and political parties had put pressure on the government followed by an all party meeting which decided upon a 30 m width for the national highways with 6 lanes and submission of a petition to the Centre in this regard. But not only the national highways but the state highways and the roads in the rural areas should also be rebuilt or repaired. The increasing advent of new vehicles on the road and more and more commuters on a daily basis have led to severe traffic jams especially in Kozhikode, Kochi and several parts of the capital city, leading to a huge wastage of fuel. The condition of the roads is pathetic and severely dangerous causing road accidents that claim the lives of people.

Demolishing the existing buildings, homes, offices, hotels and places of worship for widening the roads is not proper and ethical when people struggle to find plots to build homes. The compensation for the buildings demolished and the rehabilitation of the people becoming unemployed require a huge amount of money. Despite raising the taxes, the government still finds it difficult to pay the monthly salaries and the pensions. Amidst the severe financial crisis, the government would not be able to doll out money required for the purposes. The national highways built based on the BOT system would not require levying tolls from the people which otherwise would create a financial burden for them. When the Centre turns it back, only the National Highway Authority could be of some help in the matter.

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