KOCHI: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) may go slow on its projects in Kerala following the rising cost of land acquisition - the highest in the country - and the crippling shortage of funds plaguing the Central government-run road developer.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had recently pulled up the Transport Ministry and the NHAI for undertaking ‘extensive and reckless expansion of roads’ coming under the National Highways. According to the reports, it was suggested that the NHAI give up constructing roads and become an asset management company instead.
Factoring in the roadblocks encountered by projects in the state, Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) has decided to fund 25 per cent of the project cost for road projects implemented by the NHAI.
“The land acquisition cost for NHAI in Kerala is the country’s highest. KIIFB director board, which met recently, decided to fund 25 per cent of the land acquisition cost,” said a KIIFB officer.
A senior NHAI officer told Express the authority is pressing ahead with its projects in Kerala ‘as usual’. “Two projects in Kasaragod - highways from the state border to Chengola, and Chengola to Nileshwaram - are at the tendering stage and we are proceeding with them,” he said. Its other projects include Paloli and Moorad rail overbridge(ROB). NHAI’s ongoing works in Kerala are Thalassery-Mahe bypass and Nileshwaram ROB. NHAI has also been awarded the work on the Kozhikode bypass, but the work is yet to commence, the officer said.
Data show, 30-35 per cent of the NHAI’s annual expenditure is spent on building NHs, 30-35 per cent on land acquisition, 15-20 per cent on extending grant for projects under hybrid annuity model (HAM) and 10-15 per cent on debt servicing. An SBI Caps’ report says NHAI’s average land acquisition cost has seen an annualised growth of 30 pc from 6.8 million/ha in 2012-13 FY to 34 million/hectares now.