Approved by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway in 2014, the four-laning work of the 36-km Pinjore-Nalagarh stretch of National Highway-21-A has failed to take off.
The high rate of compensation worked out by the Haryana and Himachal governments is acting as a major stumbling block in the construction of the project, conceived several years ago.
While the land acquisition for the 17.6-km stretch lying in Himachal was as much as Rs 9 crore per hectare, its value for the remaining stretch in Haryana was as high as Rs 12 crore per hectare.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had approved Rs 510 crore for four-laning this highway from Pinjore to Swarghat. As many as 3,658 trees would be axed for this project, where the road width will be 45 m.
The high cost of land acquisition had, however, drawn the ire of the NHAI officials, who had asserted that the cost of land acquisition was much higher than the cost of the civil structure, which would be raised to four-lane the road. The officials claimed that as against the civil construction cost estimated to be Rs 420 crore, the land acquisition cost had been estimated to be Rs 650 crore. As much as 54.9 hectare land would be acquired, which includes 26 hectares in Haryana and 28 hectares in Himachal. Since this is an existing road with an average right of way of about 24 m and it is proposed to acquire 45 m for four-laning the road, the amount of Rs 650 crore for laying additional 21 m was considered to be too exorbitant.
NHAI officials had also objected that there was a huge difference between the average sale rates and the circle rates in respect of all 24 villages, except a few cases, and this would unduly perk up the project cost.
With an amount of Rs 124 crore already having been disbursed in Himachal to 1,604 of the 2,200 beneficiaries, NHAI officials had also proposed to de-notify the project, if the rates were not scaled down.
The NHAI’s plea had, however, failed to cut ice with the officials in the state, who averred that there were at least three other highways in the state, where compensation disbursed was much higher. This included the Salogra stretch of NH-22, where the cost of acquisition was Rs 1,03,50,000 per bigha; Kasawati-Nasogi highway in Kullu, where the amount was Rs 88,99,000 per bigha; Thalla in Mandi, where it was Rs 60,00,000 per bigha as against Rs 58,00,000 per bigha for the Baddi-Sheetalpur stretch of the Pinjore-Nalagarh highway.
Several modifications in the project have also added to the cost. Initially, the land award was worked out in 2016, when a notification under Section A of the National Highways Act, 1956, was issued and the width of the four-lane was slated to range from 28 m to 40 m. Later, a decision to enhance this width to 45 m along the entire stretch was taken in 2017, which led to a corresponding hike in the compensation as more land was acquired.
With the passenger car unit (PCU), daily movement of vehicles on the highway, being more than 25,000 vehicles, as per a survey conducted by the NHAI, the four-laning of this highway had become imminent. The existing road, which is unable to handle the heavy flow of traffic, has become a death trap, where fatal accidents have become an everyday affair and no amount of traffic management has helped in lowering the rate of accidents.
According to a survey conducted by the NHAI for four-laning of this highway, 104 culverts, 16 minor bridges and 5 major bridges would be constructed.
Sanjay Khurana, senior vice president, Baddi Barotiwala Nalagarh Industries Association, while ruing the inordinate delay in according permission for this highway said: “It is deplorable that an area, where there were 2,200 industries and hundreds of multi-axle trucks and other heavy vehicles moved on a daily basis, is yet to be four-laned and is being delayed due to the high cost of land acquisition.”
Total land to be acquired