Residents, traders say their concerns remain unaddressed

Land acquisition to widen the National Highway 66 up to Kuttipuram to 45 metres is yet to take off because of a myriad of issues.

The role of the State government is in focus as the issue demands urgent and delicate handling. Residents and traders on either side of the highway are spending sleepless nights over their fate, with a few determined to resist land acquisition at all costs.

The project is being implemented on the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model.

While works on the Karnataka stretch, nearly 300 km from Goa to the border town of Thalappady in Kerala, of the project are fast progressing, in Kerala, even preliminary works have not begun with the issues aired by the affected remaining unaddressed.

Shri Ram Mishra, Project Implementation Unit (PIU) Director of the NHAI’s Mangalore office, said the works from Goa to Thalappady, including bridges, would be completed by 2014.

He said the 100-km stretch from Thalappady to Kundapura in Karnataka would be widened to 60 metres and the plan was to widen to 45 metres the 189-km stretch up to Goa.

In northern Kerala, where commuters face traffic snarls on poorly maintained roads, the project has been put on the backburner with hundreds of affected residents and traders asserting that they will not allow the idea of a 45-metre highway.

“If concession can be given to Goa by going for a 30-metre wide road, why can’t the same be applied to a densely populated State such as Kerala,” asks K. Jugesh Mavungal, district vice-president of the NH Action Committee.

He questioned the need to go for a fresh road alignment in the guise of reducing sharp curves and for BOT that would force the people to shell out huge sums as toll. “We are determined not to allow any more survey. The authorities should think of widening the roads up to 30 metres in densely populated areas, which will minimise the agony of the affected. If we are forced to shift our shops , we will be forsaking vantage points,” M. Lohithakshan, who runs a bakery near to the NH at Mavungal, near Kanhangad, says.

Uma Maheshwra Raddy, Director of the PIU, NHAI, Kozhikode, told The Hindu that his office had awarded tender for the three packages stretching from Thalappady to Kuttipuram and the works had been delayed for want of land acquisition.

“With the number of vehicles multiplying by the day, we cannot outrightly reject the widening of the highway as it will help ease traffic snarls and avoid accidents,” says CPI leader and Kanhangad MLA E. Chandrasekharan.