More than Rs.20 crore has gone to waste in the name of land acquisition for widening of the Thiruvananthapuram-Cherthala stretch of NH 47.
While the second deadline for the land acquisition notification lapsed last month, no land has been handed over to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for widening the highway.
Right from the start, the expansion work has been plagued by a controversy over the proposed width of the highway. The NHAI constructs highways at a width of 60 metre all over India. However, the State was given an exemption and it was to be built at 45 metre width. The NHAI first notified the land acquisition in December 2009.
Acquisition could not be carried out before the deadline following public and political protests demanding that 30 metre be fixed as the width of the highway. After much political back and forth, the State approved the construction of the highway at a width of 45 metre under BOT method.
However, the work continued to be stalled after people tried to prevent NHAI and other officials from carrying out the work.
In a counter affidavit filed in response to a writ petition filed in the High Court of Kerala, NHAI project director R.Venkita Krishnan outlined how the confusion over the highway’s width and subsequent protests had delayed the project. “From April 2010 till November 2011, the entire process of land acquisition in the State of Kerala for widening of NH 47 and NH 17 was kept on hold causing huge losses to the public,” the affidavit said.
The second Sec.3A(1) notification was given out in March 2012 and expired in March 2013. The affidavit noted that the work on placing boundary stones for the highway was halted after people removed the stones soon after they were placed.
“The planting of the boundary stone work was stopped frequently by the government of Kerala without assigning any valid reason,” the affidavit said. Under the Thiruvananthapuram project implementation unit of the NHAI, three units had been set up to acquire land for the project.