Cost-sharing differences: NHAI stops ORR works in Thiruvananthapuram
In a meeting held on Monday, CM Pinarayi Vijayan told NHAI officials that the state will not be able to bear the cost of the proposed service roads.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The proposed Outer Ring Road (ORR) NH 866 project in the capital will be delayed as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) stopped the entire proceedings related to the project owing to differences with the state government over the bearing of cost for the land acquisition of service roads. However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will meet Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday in New Delhi to reach a consensus on the issue. He has also entrusted Chief Secretary V Venu to oversee the developments.
Earlier, the LDF government informed the Centre that the state would bear 50 per cent of the cost of the project. But the financial crunch put the state government on the back foot. Sources said the state government is likely to seek an exemption of cost-sharing from 50 per cent to 25 per cent. Only if this is approved will the state government sign an agreement with the Centre. Earlier, the ORR was proposed as a 70m-wide six-lane highway, including 25m service roads. Later, it was shortened to 45m including service roads, which means that the width of the main carriageway will be a maximum of 30m and 15m for service roads.
As per the cost-sharing agreement, the state government was told to bear the cost of the land acquisition for service roads. However, the financial crisis has forced the state to make changes to this agreement. The state has proposed that the NHAI build a 70m road with 25m service roads, in which a major share of the cost of land acquisition of service roads also be spent by the Centre. The NHAI has already proceeded with a 45m-wide road with service roads.
But in a meeting held on Monday, Pinarayi told NHAI officials that the state will not be able to bear the cost of the proposed service roads. He also reportedly told NHAI that the highway should be built with a width of 70m due to the container goods movement through this stretch because of the upcoming Vizhinjam port. However, the NHAI reportedly disagreed with the proposal as more land needs to be acquired for this and it would be a herculean task, sources said.
“The NHAI has kept the project on hold for the time being. Once the issue of cost-sharing for land acquisition for service roads is resolved, we will restart the work. It is not a big issue. I hope it will be resolved soon. The NHAI is willing to go ahead with a 45m-wide highway with service roads. But the state wants the Centre to pay for service roads too. Even now, the state has agreed to exempt GST and royalty if the Centre grants exemption for cost sharing,” said a senior NHAI official.
Earlier, the NHAI expressed hope that the construction of ORR could begin by January 2024. So far, 40 per cent of the preliminary work of land acquisition as part of the 3D notification is complete in 11 villages. The construction of an ORR, consisting of a 63km-long reach from Vizhinjam to Navaikulam via Thekkada on NH 66 and a 12km reach from Thekkada to Mangalapuram, is being carried out as part of developing the surrounding areas of the Vizhinjam project into an extensive centre of industry and commerce.