Objection to starting work without acquiring land for NH widening

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has virtually thrown a spanner in the works of Kochi Metro by objecting to launch the work without first acquiring land to widen the national highway along which the metro viaduct is proposed to be constructed.

The issue relates to the construction of the initial part of the metro viaduct on the stretch of the National Highway 47 between Aluva and Edappally. The NHAI’s objection has come at a time when the State government hopes to launch the work as soon as the Terms of Engagement is finalised. But the NHAI is yet to give its permission for Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) to commence the work.

Cost escalation

The government stand is that it is not possible to accept the NHAI’s condition. It has pointed out that acquiring additional land is not a practical proposition in view of resistance from the local people and the huge additional costs that would have to be incurred. The Kochi Metro project has been estimated to cost Rs.5,131.70 crore with 15.25 per cent equity participation each by the Centre and the State. Owing to various delays and controversies, it is feared that the project cost might go up further. The State government has brought up the issue at the earliest so that the project would not be delayed owing to the NHAI objection.

As an alternative, the government is making necessary arrangements for preserving the present volume of traffic flow along the stretch while the construction of the viaduct is undertaken.

Chandy for talks

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is expected to be in Delhi for a two-day visit, has put the issue high on his priority list while seeking the Centre’s attention to various demands of the State.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s office said Mr. Chandy would hold discussions with Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways C.P. Joshi on Tuesday seeking a directive to the NHAI to give permission to KMRL to undertake the work without additional land acquisition