Amidst Suspension of Four-Laning Works, Existing National Highway in Kanyakumari Faces Neglect
Different NH roads in Tamil Nadu (Courtesy: Department of Highways and minor ports, Government of Tamil Nadu)
In a recent event, Union Minister for Road, Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, spoke of the challenges faced by the highways department in Tamil Nadu. The minister expressed concerns over the delay in the completion of projects and foreclosure of a few projects during his speech for want of clearance and construction aggregates.
Chief Minister MK Stalin expressed surprise over the remarks and wrote back to the minister, citing the support extended by the State government. The CM also pointed out the discussion during a review meeting of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the need for corrective measures.
Amidst all the conversation, the pathetic status of the only national highway (NH) across the Kanyakumari district failed to find a mention. The lack of allocation of funds from the NHAI and the unwillingness of the government and administration to remove the encroachments alongside the road has led to massive problems for the public.
In the last eight months, all major political parties have held protests demanding the repairing of the road, which continues to be neglected, citing the 4-lane road work as project road.
‘DILAPIDATED HIGHWAY CAUSING PROBLEMS’
The 620 km long NH-47 runs between Kanyakumari, an international tourist destination in the southernmost tip of Tamil Nadu and Salem in the western part of Tamil Nadu with essential cities in Kerala, including Thrissur, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram through Coimbatore and ends in Kanyakumari.
The NH-47, a two-lane road, runs through almost the middle of the Kanyakumari district, and all the important towns and villages in the district are connected with the highways. The stretch begins at Kaliakkavilai in the Tamil Nadu- Kerala border and ends in Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the subcontinent and runs through Nagercoil, the district headquarters.
Congested in most parts and clogged by traffic jams, the time is taken to cover the 32 km distance between Kaliakkavilai and Nagercoil is more than 75 minutes. The road has remained damaged for the most part of the last four years, thanks to poor maintenance and frequent rains.
Former member of parliament from the erstwhile Nagercoil constituency AV Bellarmin said that the NHAI had not been sanctioning funds for long.
“The new four-lane road is christened as the 'project road', and hence no funds are being allocated to the existing NH47. This is causing huge problems for the daily commuters plying between Nagercoil and Thiruvananthapuram for essential needs including medical requirements,” he said.
‘NON EXECUTION OF WORKS SINCE 2017’
The NH is totally under the control of the NHAI, and hence there is no allocation of funds from the State government. Out of the 6,472 km of the 51 NH roads across Tamil Nadu, the state highways department maintains 19 roads of 1,472 km. The policy note of the Department of Highway and minor ports of the State government puts the length of highways under NHAI as 5,134 km.
After the MP from Kanyakumari, Vijay Vasanth, raised the question in the parliament on the need to repair the NH. "The project to strengthen and maintain the HN was announced in 2017-18 but has been delayed for several reasons. Domestic and international tourists are using the road to visit both Tamil Nadu and Kerala,” he said during the question hour in the previous session of the parliament.
In the ‘Pragati ki Nayi Gati’ note released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) in 2019 of the ministry's achievement between 2014 and 2018, the information on NH-47 was included.
The two stretches, NH-47, of length 27.25 km at Rs 1,274 crores and NH-47 & NH-47B (connecting Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts) of size 42.7 km at the cost of Rs 1,042 km were scheduled to be completed in August and July 2018, respectively. But, by the time the note was released.
"Due to the non-execution of projects since 2017, the NH is severely damaged. There were 3,700 fatal and non-fatal accidents between 2019 and 2021 have been reported,” Vijay said in the parliament.
After several protests in the district and the MP raising the issue in the parliament, a sum of Rs 14.99 crores was allocated.
Although the repair works are of less use, considering the geographical location of the district and the two monsoons received, the four-laning works have been reportedly foreclosed.
The union government and the MoRTH have made tall claims to expand the state's roads. Still, the vital tourist destination Kanyakumari longs for the NH to be strengthened. The reason for the incompletion of strengthening and maintenance of the NH-47 and NH-47B scheduled to be completed in 2018 remains a misery.
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