BALASORE: People expecting a smooth drive on the Balasore-Jharpokharia National Highway may have to wait for some more time. Even more than two years after the Centre’s nod for expansion of the NH, construction work is yet to start.
Sources said the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) of the Centre had approved four-lanning of NH-18 (old NH-5) from Kalama in Balasore to Jharpokharia via Baripada in Mayurbhanj district, on January 10, 2013 and sanctioned `760.73 crore.
While the 80.66 km road project was expected to be completed in 30 months, the delay in starting the work has raised questions on the project approval and administrative lethargy behind it. The project includes land acquisition, re-settlement and rehabilitation besides pre-construction activities.
The highway work is funded under the National Highway Development Programme and would be developed under Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) annuity method. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) would undertake the project in two phases.
Although tender for expansion of the highway was floated on August 19, 2013, the local authorities are yet to be intimated about its outcome. A survey was started for the work last year, prior to the election, raising hopes among the locals that land acquisition would start soon.
Locals said no steps have been taken for expansion of the highway in last one year. Though some patches of the highway are in a bad condition and require immediate repair, the work has not been undertaken on the plea that the highway would be expanded, the locals added.
The survey work was initiated after the issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by then Mayurbhanj MP Laxman Tudu. With no political leader following up the matter ever since and local administration remaining silent, locals alleged that the expansion work is getting delayed for no valid reason.
Regular commuters have demanded that the work for four-laning of the narrow highway that has a few curve sections, uneven patches and old bridges, be taken up immediately. Four-laning of the stretch would boost economy in the Balasore-Baripada region. An NH official on condition of anonymity said construction work can not be initiated unless the land acquisition is completed. “It is for the district administration to act proactively to ensure that the land is acquired at the earliest for the purpose,” he added.