Widening the National Highway stretches through Kerala to just 30 metres, instead of the 45 metres planned earlier, is feared to badly affect the development of the State and the efforts of the government to transform it into a world-class destination for tourism and industrial investments.
Stakeholders in the tourism, infrastructure and industrial sectors have been taken by surprise by the move. Several professional, commercial and social organisations have been fighting against reducing the width from 45 metres.
Cap on growth
“Further development will be affected if we go for a 30-metre width. The State needs a 45-metre right of way. Reducing it to 30 metres is like capping future development,” T. Elangovan, Scientist-G and Head, Traffic and Transportation, National Transportation Planning and Research Centre, says.
Only good roads and world-class infrastructure will attract investments and tourists to the State in a big way. Limiting the road width to 30 metres is not wise and is jeopardising the interests of the State, he says.
Mr. Elangovan says the State has 7,86,117 vehicles as on March, and the number is growing at an alarming rate, doubling every six-and-a-half years. It will be chaos with just 30-metre highways. As many as 60 per cent of the vehicles are two-wheelers, and they travel on the same lanes used by other vehicles.
E.M. Najeeb, president, Confederation of Tourism Industry-Kerala, says the government, political parties and the people of the State should realise the need for good roads.
“We need world-class roads with 60-metre width for the further development of the State. We will have to pay a big price if we dilute it. There is no replacement for good roads. It will be a big injustice to the future generation if we go for 30 metres,” he says.
Mr. Najeeb says the authorities should find alternative ways to rehabilitate those being displaced from land acquired for the development of roads.
A study by the Centre for Public Policy Research has found that 8.5 lakh people use the National Highway stretches in the State daily. Because of the deteriorating road conditions, huge losses are being incurred from loss of man hours and fuel and wear and tear of vehicles.
An estimated Rs.7.5 crore can be saved a day with good roads, the report says.
Research shows that the traffic volume will exceed capacity levels by nearly three times in 10 years and about six times in 20 years.
The State witnesses an average 11 accident deaths and 120 grievous injuries on its road network daily.
The vehicle-to-population ratio in Kerala is 1:6, whereas the national average is 1:25.
If the national average for vehicle density is 30 per sq km, it is 175 in Kerala. A six-lane road can provide a service road and segregate two-wheelers.