The National Highways Authority of India (CHEW) has decided to foreclose at least four major highway projects in Tamil Nadu as the contractors are unable to procure soil for earthwork and have been waiting for months to get statutory clearances. The NHAI has also taken the decision to de-scope works in another half a dozen projects where it’s yet to get land from the state government agencies and also waiting for different clearances. TOI has learnt that the road transport ministry has written to the state chief secretary stating its “constraint” to carry out the ongoing works on a dozen of crucial highway projects in the state which have been delayed.
“On the one hand, the state government is sending a number of proposals to the Centre for highway development while on the other it’s unable to provide necessary support for completing the ongoing works. The delays only result in the private contractors raising claims on the NHAI and arbitrations,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.
Sources said the ministry has listed the projects which would have to be foreclosed and these include two projects of 4-laning of the stretch from Tamil Nadu-Kerala Border to Kanyakumari and two projects of 6-laning from Sriperumbudur to Walajapet. “All projects in Kanyakumari district have almost come to a standstill as contractors are unable to get the soil for earthwork. Around 19 quarries and burrow areas have been closed and getting the approvals from Hill Area Conservation Authority is almost impossible. Same is the case for the two projects in Sriperumbudur-Walajapet corridor. There is no availability of burrow earth and also pond ash is not available,” said a source.
Officials said in other cases such as two projects of 4-laning from Vikravandi to Cholapuram, the NHAI has not yet got the required land and hence it will close the contracts by de-scoping the works on the remaining portion for which land isn’t available. They said in the case of Pollachi-Coimbatore 4-laning project, the state government is yet to provide the required land for setting up of a toll plaza and hence the NHAI is unable to collect the user fee.
“Some of the projects started in 2016 and we are still struggling to get land, soil and other clearances. How long will we wait. The burden of delay on NHAI is increasing,” said an official. The Tamil Nadu government officials, however, said that enormous action had been taken since July to resolve the issues relating to projects, whether land acquisition or permission for burrow area.
Chief secretary V Irai Anbu had conducted a meeting in July with 25 district collectors to sort out the issues. He held an inter-departmental meeting with the water resources department, forests and Tangedco to ensure the issues of NHAI were resolved. On December 16, PWD and highways minister E V Velu held a five-hour meeting with 22 collectors, heads of line departments and NHAI chief general manager. Highways secretary also repeatedly held meetings.