Sadananda asks NHAI officials to start work in September to improve the Shiradi Ghat stretch, so it remains motorable during monsoons.

The State Government will release additional funds to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to ensure National Highway 75 (Bangalore to Mangalore) remains motorable at Shiradi Ghat stretch during the monsoon, said Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda on Sunday.

On his way to Bangalore after casting his vote in the South-West Graduates' Constituency in Puttur, the Chief Minister inspected Shiradi ghat, the notorious section between Shiradi and Sakleshpura.

“Except for a couple of places where potholes are emerging, the road is in a good condition. But, we must remember that heavy rains have not yet started, and since mining activity has stopped in Bellary (from where iron ore was transported to New Mangalore Port), fewer heavy vehicles travel on this road,” he said.

NHAI officials who updated the Chief Minister about the work being done on the road were present. “We have received Rs. 22 crore to maintain 47 km of the Ghat section. Remaining work will be taken up between October and February,” said K. Jaiprakash, Chief Engineer for the Highway Construction.

Mr. Gowda directed the officials to finish tender processes, mobilisation of resources and back office work during the monsoons, and to start construction by September when the rains subside.

“If the NHAI needs additional funds to close potholes and maintain the road, the State Government is ready to release the money required,” he said.

The Chief Minister told NHAI officials that the drains should be built on the side of the road or even if completed should be cleared to prevent flooding of the road.

When Surendra Kumar, Project Director for the Bangalore-Mangalore Highway, told Mr. Gowda of the difficulties in acquiring approval from the Forest and Environment Ministry for the four-laning of the Ghat stretch, the Chief Minister said: “These approvals will take at least 10 years. As a Member of Parliament, I have raised this issue many times before and still couldn't get approval.”

Instead, Mr. Gowda said an alternative route that would involve a tunnel through the Ghats was being considered. “Two meetings have been held with JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) to build a 22-km tunnel. This may cost us more than Rs. 3,000 crore,” he said.

The Chief Minister said clearances would “not be a problem” as the tunnel would be “bored underneath the forests”. “Only clearances are needed for the entry and exit of the tunnel. The Mumbai-Pune Highway was cleared within three months, and we expect the same here,” he said.

While saying that tourism would be in focus in the Dakshina Kannada district, Mr. Gowda said 600 acres of government land in Padubidri would be allotted for “some employment training centre”.