COIMBATORE: The National Highways department has planned to redesign the ongoing road-widening project between Marappalam to Ooty in the Nilgiris district to facilitate free movement for wild elephants. The movement of the animals was found frequent in a few more places by the department. The Centre had allocated `63 crore for the project, the works for which began in January 2022.
The decision to redesign was made in April after a video that showed the Madras High Court judges V Bharathidasan, R Subramanian, N Sathishkumar, M Dhandapani, R Pongiappan, and GK Ilanthiraiyan inspecting the works at Nandhagopal bridge near Marappalam and a herd of wild elephants with a calf finding it difficult to cross the hill road.
NH officials have requested the Nilgiris forest division to identify a forest land between the 23.7-km stretch where movements were detected and to construct ramps and allot space on both sides of the hill road for elephants to cross safely.
“We have decided to widen the main Marappalam to Ooty road from the existing 7 m to 10 m. This is as part of road safety measures as commuters, especially bus and lorry drivers, find it difficult to navigate on the narrow hill road at sharp turns. This initiative would also help motorists visiting the town to drive freely. We will get the opinion of the forest department in the coming weeks and finalise the report,” said a senior official from the National Highways Department.
The works would be done phase-wise — of the total 23.7 km long road, 9.7 km would be widened between Marappalam to Coonoor at a cost of Rs 36 crore, and the remaining 14 km Coonoor to Ooty road for Rs 27 crore, the official said. The official added that the road was taken up for widening after five years, and they have decided to complete both phases before December 2022. There is also a similar project on the Ooty-Gudalur road in the pipeline.
“Tender would be awarded soon for widening the Ooty to Gudalur road which is 16 km away. We will construct the new culverts by demolishing the old structures and restore retaining wall apart from widening the road for Rs 75 crore,” he said.