Herald: NIGHTMARE ON NH66

NIGHTMARE ON NH66

12 May 2019 05:27am IST

Report by
NIHARIKA NEUREKAR and ADRIEL ALMEIDA

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12 May 2019 05:27am IST

Report by
NIHARIKA NEUREKAR and ADRIEL ALMEIDA

Leave a comment

The ongoing National Highway 66 widening from Patradevi to Karaswada in Mapusa has become a death trap to motorists and has seen several accidents in the last one and half year, many of them being fatal. Though the widening of road was necessary for the ever-increasing traffic, the manner in which the work is being carried out has raised many questions. NIHARIKA NEUREKAR and ADRIEL ALMEIDA travel by the same dangerous road to know the miseries of the common man.

The widening of the National Highway 66 was in the pipeline for almost a decade now. However, the National Highway's Authority of India has finally sanctioned and started work on the multi-crore highway expansion project.

But the road, which was supposed to solve issues of commuters and motorists; has posed numerous challenges to those inhabiting the surrounding areas of the highway project and the ones who travel frequently via the ‘Patradevi- Karaswada’ route.

The highway is undergoing a major overhaul from Patradevi to Karaswada, which further extends south till Cancona. 

Reports state that, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has received an approval from the Central Government to upgrade the entire stretch of 136 km route from beginning to end, to a four-lane highway with a width of approximate 45 meters, due to the population density and high value of land.


Narrow width, pathetic conditions and potholes

With the work commencing somewhere in 2018; currently the width of the road stretch for vehicles to pass by is comparatively narrow and is without dividers for the most part.

The usual traffic of two lanes has been made to flow via a single lane at numerous places, due to which, the average speed of vehicles is comparatively lesser than what could be usually attained.

This, has thereby added to prevailing issues such as accidents and has also led to an increase in the number of head-on collisions between vehicles. 

In some cases, these accidents have been fatal where drivers, riders, and passengers have lost their lives. Commuters have cited the low visibility caused by the excess dust in the air as one of the key reasons why it is a risk to drive through these routes, especially at night and particularly for two-wheelers. 

They have observed that many of these accidents also occur due to human mistakes, where one vehicle ends up hitting another vehicle. In other cases, vehicles are forced to swerve to the wrong lane due to a damaged part of the road or missing signboards which would have otherwise kept the commuter aware of forthcoming left or right turns, speed breakers, diversions etc.

They also point out that, in addition to the narrow span of the road, there are no guard railings along either side of the highway, which also makes it difficult to judge the corner of the roads. 

Another problem that commuters face is the fact the surface of these roads are uneven and moreover, have a lot of potholes that were caused due to ongoing construction activities. 

Further, the condition of the NH-66 is quite bad, where at some places like the Dhargali region, there is no proper road. Thus two-wheelers must drive safe while travelling via this route, say commuters. 


PWD Minister blames Dhavalikar for the mess

The newly appointed PWD Minister Dipak Pauskar squarely blames the former PWD Minister Ramkrishna alias Sudin Dhavalikar for the mess on NH66.

“I know the mess created by the former PWD Minister and I have to clear it now. I also know the issues faced by the commuters and hence I held a meeting this week with the contractor and the PWD officials," Pauskar said. 

He said that when the contract was awarded all this isues of public safety should have been discussed. 

Pauskar said he has directed the contractor and the PWD officials that there sould be no potholes to be seen on the NH66 before the monsoons.

“The NH66 work will continue till 2020 as it has been delayed due to land acquisition at many places and being under litigation,” he said.

Pauskar said he has directed officials that atleast places where there aren’t any issues be completed before June.

He said the issues of litigations and protests in North Goa over a temple and chapel are on the verge of being settled.


PEOPLE SPEAK
There is also the issue of objections from the locals of Kharaswada, Colvale, Dhargali, Uguem, Torxem even though the land acquisition and tendering process for the national highway widening project is taking place simultaneously at a brisk pace. Locals are upset about this as they feel their issues which include resettlement for some, among other demands, have not been addressed yet. Further issues of the constant traffic jams and the loud noise of the vehicles passing by; have caused daily hardships to the residents there. 
“The main problem we are facing is that of the traffic. We are often stuck in long traffic jams. However, once the work gets completed I am hoping that it will be beneficial to the commuters”, said Roopam Khor, who is a daily commuter on the road. 
Anjali Desai said, “I almost travel everyday on this road, and the potholes, the dust and long traffic jams lead to an irritable and exhausting journey not only for the vehicles but also the person travelling. This work has been going on for a while and it’s not going to end soon. However, there’s not anything that can be done either, we are to put up with this anyway.” 
“The roads are not safe anymore because of the increased number of vehicles and the ongoing work the road. They are building all these new roads and highways, but what is the point, if no one is actually going to maintain them later. I hope this highway does not become a subject of neglect and corruption in the future”, added Swapnil Borkar.
“The work has been going on for a while now, and they have completely ruined everything. All this work is done in a really shabby way and now people are fed up with this”, said Mini Dias, a resident of the area of Colvale. Mini’s house is located alongside the road and she is often troubled by the dust that is brought in her house due to the ongoing work of the roads and the loud sounds caused by the passing of heavy vehicles.
Another Colvale resident, Samantha D’souza, said, “The sounds caused by the buses and trucks due to the widening of the highway are terrible especially early in the morning and late in the night. I have a baby, and she keeps waking up at night due to this. All this has become stressful for her too. It’s mentally disturbing for us as the family peace is destroyed. Moreover, it causes damage to our vehicles too, due to the increase in our travel time, the diesel gets wasted because of changing the gears and also the suspension is affected.”
“It seems that travellers will have to wait and tolerate this situation till the end of the year, as of now as the National highway project work is likely to be accomplished by December 2019”, said site supervisor Venu. “As the project gets executed the people who travel by this road should take safety measures too. The drivers need to be alert at all times especially during the night time to avoid any mishaps. They should ensure that they drive safe and do not over speed,” added officials of the construction company.  

CONTRACTOR CRIES NO HELP FROM GOVT

The site supervisor Venu, who works with contractor M Venkata Rao, added, “We are not only required to construct and widen the highway but we also need to solve the problems that people face."
He said many times they are called to divert the traffic and put up sign boards in order to avoid the accidents and undertaking only a part of the highway at a time is causing the pace of work to slow down. 
"In our capacity, we are trying our best to reduce the problems that the travellers face,” he added.
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