Talks on width of NHs inconclusive

Special Correspondent

Union Minister and Achuthanandan hold discussions but stick to their stance

Centre wants width of at least 45 metres

State says width should not exceed 30.5 metres

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The development of National Highway 47 and 17 in Kerala is likely to be delayed as no agreement could be reached between the State and the Centre on the width of the highways.

During a discussion, Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways R.P.N. Singh and Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan had here on Thursday, the latter stuck to the stand that the width should not exceed 30.5 metres because of difficulties in land acquisition in the State. The Union Minister maintained that a minimum of 45 metres was required for safety aspects. Mr. Singh and officials from the National Highways Authority of India had arrived here for talks following a representation made by an all-party delegation from the State to the Prime Minister seeking reduction of width for the highways.

Though the Central team raised the issue of developing 45-metre-wide highways on stretches where land had already been acquired, the State government did not agree to the proposal. It maintained that the State could not waver from the decision of an all-party meeting that the width should not exceed 30.5 metres. So, Mr. Singh proposed further discussions.

Mr. Singh told the media after the meeting that the Central team had put up a proposal for the State to consider. Its response to the proposal would be awaited. He said the Central norm for development of highways was 60 metres. However, considering the population density near highways in Kerala, the width was allowed to be reduced to 45 metres. It was necessary for the highways to have medians and service roads for safety.

Centre wants consensus

“However, we do not want to disturb or be an impediment to people along the path of the highways. We want a consensus. We will be holding talks with all political parties in this regard. We will also talk to the Opposition parties in the State.”

Mr. Singh ruled out the option of considering a rehabilitation package for those affected since the land had been acquired at market value. The Minister said he had discussed with the Chief Minister the issue of levying toll. Toll would be levied in a transparent manner as per the national policy, he said.

He said that roads should be planned considering their economic importance. Roads were not only for vehicles but also for people living on the sides. The Centre had sanctioned 700 km of highways, considering the imperatives of economic activity in the State.

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