SEVERAL THOUSAND HOMES, RELIGIOUS PLACES & COMMERCIAL ESTABLISHMENTS WILL BE ERASED TO MAKE WAY FOR THE NEW NATIONAL HIGHWAY, CLAIMS THE REPORT.
The up gradation of 229KM of major district roads and state national highways into the new National Highway will be intersecting several homes, religious places and commercial establishments in Goa and soon all those places coming in the way of new NH will be erased, said the sources. Based on the news published in the national daily TOI, Thousands of homes, a number of religious structures and commercial establishments may soon be demolished to make way for new national highways after the Union ministry of road transport and highways granted in-principle approval for upgrading 229km of major district roads (MDRs) and state highways in Goa to NH.
The sources have revealed that amongst the vast network of state’s roads which will come under the up gradation of National Highway includes the North Goa coastal circuit right from Betim to Arpora via Verem and Nerul. The other major district roads marked for expansion to national highways include the 10.7 km interior road from Old Goa to Pilar junction, which strategically links the NH-17 and NH-4. Many of these links are very narrow and have the scores of houses, places of worship and ecological assets along the route, said the sources.
“The minister (for roads transport and highways) has approved in principle declaration of the roads as new national highways subject to the outcome of detailed project report (DPR). The task of preparation of DPRs for the stretches has been assigned to various agencies,” director MORTH Maya Prakash said. When media asked Chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, why the government agreed to the proposal that will have larger implications for a small state like Goa. He replied saying that, his government granted approval for upgrading certain stretches of state highways to national highways with the sole intention of bringing in more funds for developing state infrastructure. “It is for the improvement of infrastructure,” said Parsekar.
Meanwhile, the PWD officials claim that the roads were selected and identified for development into national highways based on traffic projections and economic factors. “The Union ministry has gone according to state recommendations. They did it based on traffic count, economic interests and other factors such as tourism and development of the state. When a plan is made, it is made for the future,” a PWD official stated. According to the sources, the ecologically sensitive stretches of MDRs which will be erased for the up gradation of new National Highway includes the network close to the Sahyadris, Bolcornem to Tambdi Surla, Colem to Shigao, and, among others, Marcel to Savoi Verem. A few state highways stretching through the forest and hilly areas marked for expansion are the 36-km Borim to Zuna road, 17.09-km Dharbandora to Sanvordem route and 4-km stretch from Sesa Goa plant to Shalibar, Naroa.
Given that the existing road is narrow, the proposed expansion by state and central authorities to meet national highways guidelines will require massive land acquisition and demolition of hundreds of homes that comes in the way of the new national highway. “It (acquisition for expansion) is in the pipeline with Union ministry of road transport and highways. They have asked us to prepare the DPR, which we have not yet prepared,” principal chief engineer PWD Uttam Parsekar said.
The sources have further stated that, based on the Indian Roads Congress guidelines and Union ministry of road transport and highways specifications, a national highway requires a minimum width of 30 m to a maximum width of 60 m for further expansion – a challenging task for planners as the state’s terrain is undulating and ecologically fragile. The MORTH guidelines further state that for up gradation of SHs (State Highways) and MDRs (Major District Roads), the right of way must be available for acquisition, the stretch should be free of encroachments, and the state government should complete acquiring formalities within six months. “If the additional right of way is required for developing the road to NH standards, the state has to complete the acquisition expeditiously after sanctioning of estimates,” a Union ministry official said.
Incidentally, the state government did not announce this development even though the circular was issued on January 2. The model code of conduct came into effect on January 4 and the state assembly elections were held on February 4. The tourism sector has reacted with horror at the developments that will not only spell disaster for ancestral homes and stand-alone hoteliers but will also drastically alter Goa’s landscape. “It is not feasible to construct a national highway in the coastal belt without destroying its essence. A highway cannot be constructed in densely populated areas, which will entail small village roads connecting to a highway at every 50 meters, which will interfere with the traffic. Goa has its unique beauty, which has its origins in the quiet and peaceful village life, all of which will be destroyed,” past president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) Francisco de Braganca said.
Meanwhile, The CM said that when the new government takes over, it can reconsider the decision in view of the apex court’s order directing states and Union territories not to renew licenses of liquor outlets lying within 500 m of a national or state highway. Parsekar had proposed that certain stretches of national or state highways with bypasses be de-notified to protect the interest of affected parties.