NH 67 extension project draws public ire

HARD BLOW: The NHAI has placed a marking stone in the middle of a coconut farm at Muthugoundanpudur for land acquisition for a four-lane road. Photo:M.Periasamy

HARD BLOW: The NHAI has placed a marking stone in the middle of a coconut farm at Muthugoundanpudur for land acquisition for a four-lane road. Photo:M.Periasamy   | Photo Credit: M_PERIASAMY

Farmers say the scheme will eat into precious tracts of agricultural lands. Residents lament that many houses will go. Will it be the end of the road for them? M. Soundariya Preetha finds out.

Coimbatore looks all set to get a new four-lane road connecting its eastern suburbs with those in the north. But, it has run into resistance from residents and farmers living on the proposed route, who argue that the project will disrupt their lives.

The Rs. 617-crore NH 67 (National Highways) extension project will start at Kangeyampalayam, near Sulur, and run for 53.93 km to end at Mettupalayam. To be taken up on build-operate-transfer (BOT) model, it will have a toll plaza at Narasimhanaikenpalayam. The project will include four bypass roads: in Coimbatore, Periyanaickenpalayam, Karamadai and Mettupalayam. It also envisages three road overbridges and one major bridge across the Noyyal and will involve acquisition of nearly 875 acres (354 hectares).

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) mooted the project in 2006 and it is expected to ease the traffic pressure on NH 67, provide a better road for cargo movement from Mettupalayam to the east of the city, and benefit all those who return from or go to the Nilgiris from the east of the city.

Though such a proposal should have seen widespread acceptance, it is objected to by the public for several reasons – alignment, toll collection, land acquisition, etc.

In 2010, the then Collector of Coimbatore P. Umanath wrote to the State Government suggesting a relook at the road's alignment. Coimbatore MP P.R. Natarajan also wrote to the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways in 2011 that there was a need to modify the alignment. Collector M. Karunagaran conducted a stakeholders' meeting last month to elicit views from different sections on the proposed road.

The proposed four-lane road will include about five km of the existing Mettupalayam Road. The toll plaza proposed at Narasimmanaickenpalayam is one of main subjects of contention since even the local vehicles passing through the existing road will have to pay toll.

Further, the project envisages acquisition of agricultural lands (wetlands and garden lands) and will affect hundreds of houses on the entire stretch. In some areas, the proposed highway will run parallel to existing roads.

To ease congestion

Coimbatore Consumer Cause secretary K. Kathirmathiyon said the main need is for a Mettupalayam bypass and even the State Government can consider developing a road from Kallar to Karamadai to ease the congestion at Mettupalayam.

The original proposal was for a bypass road from Neelambur to Mettupalayam. There does not seem to be any valid reason for extending the road from Kangeyampalayam to Neelambur as NH 47 already serves the purpose.

“We are for development and we need better infrastructure. But, one of the existing roads from Sulur to Neelambur can be widened rather than developing a new road from Kangeyampalayam to Neelambur. Sulur area has some of the last remaining wetlands of this region and it will be affected by the road,” says D. Selvaraj of Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangham (led by M.R. Sivasami).

Though it is said that houses were not constructed in many areas on the proposed route when the project was mooted, the present alignment will affect several houses that are 20 years old or more, point out some of the residents on Mettupalayam Road.

With rapid development and traffic growth, Coimbatore needs better road infrastructure. Many feel the NH 67 extension project is unnecessary and existing roads can be widened to meet the growing traffic. There are others who say the new road is needed but with a different alignment.

R. Rangaraju, secretary of Communist Party of India at Kaikolapalayam, says a bypass road is certainly needed to meet infrastructure needs of the increasing traffic in Coimbatore. However, the compensation paid for land acquisition should be on time and at market value.

The road should benefit the common man. However, this project only threatens to deprive a large number of people of their houses and livelihood, says Krishnaveni of Neelambur.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 5:28:04 PM |

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