NHAI unwilling to take the lead in removing encroachers on its service roads along Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is on a collision course with the district administration over removing encroachers from the service roads of the Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass.

The NHAI, which owns the stretch and collects hefty toll from motorists using the bypass, is unwilling to take the lead in removing vendors, encroachers and vehicles parked haphazardly on service roads. As a result, accidents and brawls between motorists and encroachers are becoming common on the stretches.

NHAI Kochi project director C.T. Abraham said it was up to the District Collector to initiate action. “The Collector is armed with magisterial powers and chairs the district-level Road Safety Committee. He can also take action based on court orders which permit a clampdown against encroachers. He can even direct the police to charge rule violators with causing public nuisance. He must form a committee comprising officials of various departments and launch an intensive anti-encroachment drive,” Mr. Abraham said.

Meanwhile, District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareeth said the NHAI project director had wide-ranging quasi-judicial powers, using which he could remove encroachers and take action against illegal parking.

“The NHAI owns the highway and service roads and hence is its custodian,” Mr. Pareeth said.

On the NHAI’s complaint that the road safety committee not taking action against rule violators, the Collector said the NHAI was yet to present the matter before the committee despite encroachers thriving along the crucial and busy corridor. “We will assign police protection if the NHAI is willing to take the lead in removing encroachers,” he said.

The traffic police have for years been complaining that the NHAI was not cooperating with it in ensuring safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians along the bypass and its service roads. “We shot off numerous letters to the NHAI, demanding eviction of encroachers and augmenting safety measures along the 16-km stretch. The attitude of motorists who think that service roads are meant for parking has worsened the plight of road users,” said a senior traffic police officer.

The NHAI’s unwillingness to lead or coordinate the enforcement drive and its dissonance with otheragencies have resulted in the bypass and service roads becoming a haven for rule violators. A long-pending suggestion to limit parking to light vehicles along one side of the service road has also fallen on deaf ears.

As a result, encroachers have even gone to the extent of adding road shoulders to their property, by tying ropes up to 10 metres into service roads and treating the NHAI-owned area as their own, especially in front of a shopping mall at Vyttila.

Sources said frequent encroachments into service roads could be checked if the tarred surface was widened from 5.5 metres to seven metres.

“Service roads have ample width in most portions and tarring road shoulders will ensure smooth two-way traffic when traffic curbs are introduced as part of proposed flyovers at four junctions on the bypass. A proposal in this regard is pending with the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for many years,” sources said.

About two months ago, the district administration had threatened to slap criminal action against the NHAI for the shabby upkeep of the bypass. While the NHAI filled a few potholes at Vyttila Junction a week ago, nothing was done to resurface the potholed free-left turn towards mobility hub and Tripunithura. This has forced the police to issue a notice to the NHAI demanding urgent filling of all potholes on the bypass.

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