From Good to Not-so-Good, to Bad, Worse and finally....Dead! That has been the story of the development of the NH-47 which links Kerala's two biggest cities and acts as a lifeline for half of the State and over 20 million people all told, including a portion of Southern Tamilnadu. A long deadlocked project got moving finally when it was tendered out successfully last year before it was embroiled in a politically motivated drama about the width of the proposed road. And now, the sword has finally fallen. Frustrated by the months of unnecessary delay, the Central Government has axed the project in its current form, effectively annulling the contract which was all set to be awarded to a leading construction firm. It has called for the preparation of a fresh Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the widening of NH-47 from Cherthala to Trivandrum.
Image Courtesy: Szykana
What does this mean? Simple, between one and two years of nothing! It will take a minimum of a year to prepare a new DPR. Next the cost estimates will have to be prepared and approved by NHAI, before the tender process starts all over again. Even if the tenders are awarded smoothly, the minimum time that will elapse till we see any sort of work start is two years. Two years where the congestion on the NH-47 will increase at an ever increasing rate, two years where thousands of Crores will be wasted because of slow moving traffic, millions of tons of extra pollutants generated by idling vehicles and hundreds of people killed or maimed on unsafe roads.
Will someone step and claim responsibility for this? I would guess not, apart from the political game of exchanging blame, just to keep the electorate fooled.
Bad news indeed, especially when massive projects like Technopark Phase III, the UST Global campus, Technocity, IBM and Vizhinjam are finally getting a move on. Bad news for all of us, who actually have to use the highways and cannot afford either the luxury of escorted State cars or to sit back and complain from armchairs at home or abroad.
The only sliver of hope in the midst of all this gloom is that when a new DPR is prepared, the massive increase in traffic from 2004, when the last one was completed, would be taken into account and the design would be for a 6-lane highway! A worrying aspect is that NHAI seems to be looking to cut corners in view of the opposition to tolls in Kerala, and one are they are targeting is the construction of grade separators which is the costliest component of any highway. (1 Km of 4-lane surface road costs Rs 10 Crores or so, 1 Km of 4-lane elevated road costs Rs 45 Crores or more) However, the emphasis should be one more elevated stretches not less so as to avoid small towns like Varkala, Kottiyam, Chathanoor, Karunagapally, Haripad and Ambalapuzha along the NH-47. I hope someone sees the logic in not deleting flyovers.
Bad news, indeed, but let's hope for the best, folks!