THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Construction of the NH-66 stretch from Kazhakoottam in Thiruvananthapuram to Malappuram, spanning 322 km, is likely to be stalled soon owing to acute shortage of soil (red earth) and stones. The shortage of rocks and stones is a direct fallout of the Tamil Nadu government’s ban on quarries, as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which used to mobilise the materials from various districts in the neighbouring state, is unable to do so now.
Back home, people living close to soil quarries in various districts in Kerala have been protesting against mining citing health issues, leading to soil shortage.
The mining and geology department has also imposed stringent restrictions on quarrying. The NHAI has sought immediate intervention from the state government to ensure the smooth implementation of the largest NH project in Kerala.
“There is an acute crisis in mobilising materials. The Kerala government should intervene, else work has to be stopped midway,” said a top official with the NHAI.
The official said there are also protests against soil mining from people residing close to quarries in certain districts. There are also reports of certain local governments and the police imposing restrictions on the movement of vehicles and materials, and setting up of plants.
As of now, the work is progressing faster only in Kollam. However, this may not be for much longer, according to V P Rajasekhar of Viswa Samudra Engineering Pvt Ltd which took up construction of the Kollam bypass-Kottukulangara NH stretch. “There is a shortage of materials. The construction is going on with limited materials brought from border areas in Tamil Nadu. However, this may not last long. The materials are insufficient. Earlier, the work was stopped due to a shortage of materials. The government should do something,” Rajasekhar told TNIE.
Construction of the NH-66 stretch from Kozhikode to Kasaragod is going on without hurdles as the materials are procured from Karnataka. “The northern districts are sourcing materials without hiccups,” said the NHAI official.
As per the support agreement between Kerala and the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the state has to facilitate all applicable permits required from any local body and should assist the NHAI in obtaining access to utilities, including stones, soil, and electricity.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Public Works department said they would hold talks with the Tamil Nadu government to lift the ban on quarries to ensure smooth mobilisation of stones and rocks.
Kishor M C, deputy director, the Mining and Geology department, told TNIE that there was a shortfall of documents in applications submitted by contractors for approval of the permit to procure soil, causing the delay.
“We are processing all the applications submitted by contractors. However, some applications lack the required documents. So, we will return those for fresh submission. However, the contractors tell NHAI that the applications are pending. If they point out the points where the delay occurs, we will clear it soon,” Kishor said.