Stark contrast in NHAI work on highways in Karnataka and Kerala

Well-maintained existing carriageway, secured worksites, proper signboards are highlights of NH 66 widening project in Kerala whereas NH 75 is a dust bowl

November 05, 2022 05:42 pm | Updated November 07, 2022 09:50 am IST - MANGALURU

Safety norms have been ignored by contractor widening Mangaluru-Bengaluru NH 75 between B.C. Road and Periyashanthi (Dharmasthala Cross). The under-construction flyover at Kalladka on October 31, 2022.

Safety norms have been ignored by contractor widening Mangaluru-Bengaluru NH 75 between B.C. Road and Periyashanthi (Dharmasthala Cross). The under-construction flyover at Kalladka on October 31, 2022. | Photo Credit: ANIL KUMAR SASTRY

National Highways Authority of India is widening NH 75 in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka and NH 66 in Kasargod district of Kerala, but the execution of work is a picture of contrast.

Driving on NH 75 is a nightmare, marked by dust and a bumpy ride. But in Kasargod district of Kerala, road-users and residents do not experience any adverse impact on account of the work, except for the movement of construction-related vehicles and personnel at the worksite.

Hugh difference in highway work in Karnataka and Kerala
The Hindu takes a look at the work of widening Mangaluru-Bengaluru NH 75 in Karnataka, and the Talapady-Thiruvananthapuram section of NH 66 in Kerala. | Video Credit: Anil Kumar Sastry

The NHAI is executing the 630-km Talapady (Karnataka border)-Thiruvananthapuram (Karode) 10-lane expansion project, including four lanes of service roads on Panvel-Kanniyakumari NH 66 under 20 packages at an estimated cost of around ₹50,000 crore.

The 39-km Talapady-Chengala package is being executed at an estimated cost of ₹1,981 crore.

Road-users complain that despite there being a ‘double engine’ government in Karnataka, as claimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, widening of the Mangaluru-Bengaluru NH 75 in Dakshina Kannada district has not yet reached the halfway mark though work commenced in 2017.

The original contractor exited the project. The new contractor, KNR Constructions, commenced the work in September, but has been executing the same without maintaining the existing highway in a motorable condition and ignoring safety norms, particularly at flyover construction sites.

The entire 45-km stretch between B.C. Road and Periyashanthi, including Kalladka town, is in a mess, say road-users.

But it is a different story on the other side of the border. When this correspondent took the road from Talapady to Hosangadi in Kasaragod district of Kerala on November 5, the existing carriageway was found to have been well-maintained.

The worksites were safely demarcated by placing concrete barriers all along and vehicles moving on a two-lane carriageway.

Hosangadi resident Sharan, who works as a graphics artist in Mangaluru, told The Hindu that though commencement of work was delayed by nearly a decade owing to land acquisition issues, work is being executed at a fast pace.

“Unlike Karnataka, Kerala does not have a double engine government. Kerala elected an ‘opposition party’. Yet, NHAI is executing the project by following all norms in the contract,” Mr. Sharan said.

While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan personally monitors project execution, the Kerala Government bears 25% of the land acquisition cost, a first in India, Mr. Sharan said.

On the other hand, anyone travelling between Mangaluru and Uppinangady on a motorcycle would end up unrecognisable, because he/she would be covered in dust during the journey, quipped Jayanth Prabhu, a trader in Manjeshwara town in Kerala.

The 10-lane NH 66 in Kerala is a part of the 1,760 km Mumbai-Kanniyakumari Economic Corridor being developed as a part of the Bharatmala Pariyojana.

Upon completion of the 10-lane NH 66 in Kerala, the portion of NH 66 in Karnataka between Talapady and the Goa border, would continue to be a four-lane road without any service roads, and would look bad.

The 300-km stretch between Talapady-Goa border (Majali) was developed into four-lane by three agencies — Talapady-Mangaluru and NITK Surathkal-Kundapura by Navayuga Tollway Pvt. Ltd., Mangaluru-NITK Surathkal by NHAI, and Kundapura-Goa border by IRB West Coast Tollway Pvt. Ltd.

With no proper service roads, absence of flyovers or vehicular underpasses at busy junctions slows down motorists as the police have put up barricades at some places. Quality of construction too is poor accompanied by poor maintenance, thereby drivers have to endure a bumpy ride, say road-users.

The stretch between Kundapura-Goa border was not still complete at many parts, including at Bhatkal, Honnavar, Kumta and Ankola. Yet NHAI was collecting toll from vehicles all along, road-users complain.

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