Road show of the unpalatable kind
A new road always means controversy; chiefly because of the material gains it brings or is instrumental in losing. Tripunithura and Thiruvankulam are engaged in a tussle now for a chunk of the bypass that spells progress for the entire area, reports LEEAL MENON.
THIS IS a different type of road rage... the rage against development through roads and creation of roadblocks against it, centred on acquisitions and inspired by vested interests. And the controversy is between two action committees in Tripunithura and Thiruvankulam... . beneficiaries both, if the road comes.
No one can deny that roads are the arteries of development. Ernakulam's eternal woe is the absence of enough roads and entry points and the resultant traffic chaos. Tripunithura is not much different in peak time traffic blocks. The controversy is over the construction of a bypass on Kochi-Madura National Highway 49, from Kundannoor to Mattakuzhi for which the National Highway Authority had already given clearance for the alignment.
While the Tripunithura Bypass Action Committee of Thiruvankulam, along with Thiruvankulam Vikasana Samithy, the Thiruvankulam Public Library and the Elder Citizens Forum of Thiruvankulam champion the cause of the Bypass, and plead for early construction of this corridor, the Tripunithura People's Action Council opposes it tooth and nail. Their court battle has now ended, with the High Court vacating the stay on the construction.
The Thiruvankulam fora believes they definitely have the chips in their favour now. Tripunithura is adjacent to many large and medium industries such as Kochi Refineries, FACT, HOC, Carbon Black, KEL, and OEN (India).
Apart from being the supply point of all the granites and earth needed for the rapidly developing metropolis of Ernakulam, with granite-laden lorries and tipper lorries driving at breakneck speed, crowding out private vehicles from roads, making roads accident-prone, the hue and cry for the bypass is understandable.
What makes the bypass an inevitable necessity now is the ongoing construction of the Seaport Airport Road which connects Kochi Internationalk air port with Kochi sea port, being constructed by the Kerala State bridges and Roads Development Corporation. This road comes through Thiruvankulam in the proposed Tripunithura Bypass of NH 49.
The proposed bypass cuts the distance from Kundannoor to Mattakuzhi from the present 15 km to just 8.8 km, which can be covered in minutes if crowded areas are eliminated as proposed, saving both time and fuel. If this bypass does not materialise, it neutralises the Airport-Seaport Road which will get terminated at Irimbanam, leaving vehicles to negotiate traffic bottlenecks like Irumbanam, Petta and SN Junction. The positive impact on the proposed Express Highway, if this bypass materialises is also considerable. And especially now that the NH Link Road, connecting NH 49 from Kundannoor to Willingdon island, is already over.
If the bypass materialises it can cut the distance to the airport, especially for people from Thiruvalla and Kottayam, the feeder community of Nedumbassery airport . It benefits people from Alappuzha as well as the pilgrims to Sabarimala and Chottanikara, in the pilgrim season, as they can avoid the crowded Vyttila junction, reducing travelling time from the present one hour to just 20 minutes.
"Kerala has evolved into a megacity and such link roads are arteries," points out Mr N.P.George, convener of the Bypass Action Committee. P.C.Thomas, MP, has also been actively canvassing for the construction of the bypass. Sources in the PWD, however, say that a new alignment will be worked out, in view of the raging objections.
The Ministry of Surface Transport in their letter, No.RW/NH-12024/180/99, dated 14.1.1999, had stated that the guidelines issued it would be followed as the alignment was finalised after studying alternatives and satisfying engineering, aesthetic and economic requirements. It had ruled out changes in the alignment.
Even the Tripunithura Action Council agrees that the bypass is essential. "What we oppose is the proposed bend on the bypass. It could have been avoided," said Mr.Antony of the Tripunithura Action Council. "A road is welcome, as it is essential for development," he added. "The whole controversy is over just 1.5 km," says Mr.N.J.George, Secretary of the Thiruvankulam Public Library.
Though the stay has been vacated, no action has yet been initiated to start construction of the bypass, possibly due to paucity of funds. Funds originally allotted have already lapsed. According to reliable sources, the construction might be on Build-Operate-Transfer basis, which is already a controversy on the bridge to Willingdon Island.
History has proved that roads and bridges take aeons to materialise, even without controversies and court battles and paucity of funds.
NH 17 took years to complete, it being just 20 km, it is pointed out. Though this bypass is a virtual lifeline to Tripunithura and Thiruvankulam and a magic solution to the eternal traffic jams that bedevils road users, will it be quagmired in the usual political and bureaucratic ineptitude?
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