The Association of Engineers Kerala has come out against the move to confine the width of national highways (NHs) in the State to 30 metres during the next phase of highway development.

Disclosing the deliberations of a State committee meeting of the organisation at Kalpetta recently, its president R. Venugopal and general secretary V.V. Binu said in a statement here on Monday that any move to confine the width of NHs to 45 metres in Kerala, when other States were going in for 60-metre highways, was understandable because of the situation prevailing in the State. But reducing the width to 30 metres was the biggest injustice to future generations and would become a big hurdle in the development of the State.

The statement pointed out that if the growth of vehicle population was taken into consideration, six-lane roads would become inevitable in the near future. It questioned the contention that 45-metre width was not necessary for four-lane roads. A 4.5-metre-broad centre median was inevitable for the safe and accident-free movement of vehicles at 80-100 km per hour along the main path and for taking U turns. Service roads were unavoidable on either side for slower vehicles and for safe entry into the main path. Footpath for pedestrians on both sides was also unavoidable. It was impossible to construct a four-lane path with all these facilities without a width of 45 metres.

The Association described an all-party delegation's plea for confining the width to 30 metres as a narrow political decision. It had brought to a halt the steps which were being taken by the Centre to keep the width at 45 metres. The organisation was of the firm opinion that the highway development in the State should be according to the Indian Roads Congress norms.

It contended that the absence of quality highways would create big problems when the number of vehicles increased with the translation of projects such as Vallarpadam, Vizhijam harbour, Technocity and Kannur airport into reality. It questioned the contention that the proponents of 45-metre highways were pro-affluent sections. Majority of those who died or were maimed in road accidents were ordinary people. It welcomed the rethinking on the issue among Ministers, leaders of political parties and leading organisations. It asked the Chief Minister to take concerted steps to convene a fresh all-party conference to reconsider the issue. It wanted the conference to take into consideration the views of, among others, the association which contained engineers from the Public Works, Water Resources and Local Self-Government departments and arrive at a decision which would not shackle the freedom of experts.