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Return cash, drive in darkness

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 2: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has asked the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) to return the amount given by it to carry out an illumination project on the 13km stretch of the NH-5 between Palasuni and Baramunda.

The project has already been delayed by two and half years. Now the NHAI is planning to widen an 80km stretch from Chandikhol to Baramunda on NH-5, which also covers the 13km stretch. The road — a four-lane one — would have six lanes once the NHAI completes its widening project.

The NHAI, therefore, felt that any investment on illuminating the 13km stretch would be a “waste of money”, and has asked the BMC to return Rs 3.73 crore which was sanctioned for the project.

The BMC had signed an agreement for the illumination project with the NHAI in February 2008.

The NHAI, subsequently, released the money in October 2009 for the same. Except for erection of a few poles, there has been no progress towards completion of the project.

“The BMC had floated a tender inviting private contractors to carry out the project in November 2009. A private contractor banned by the NHAI was denied to participate in the process. The contractor moved the high court and the court, in an interim order, instructed the BMC to finalise the tender with the court’s approval. If NHAI had not taken the widening project in hand, we could have gone ahead with the illumination,” said Gadadhar Parida, commissioner of the BMC.

“After six months of legal battle, the high court dismissed the petition allowing the BMC to carry out the project work. So, now we do not have any problem in carrying out the illumination project,” he added, claiming that they are trying to convince the NHAI that they would complete the project within three months.

“Any investment on this patch of the highway for illumination purposes would now be a waste. Illumination could be done once the widening of the highway is over,” said Aditya Kumar Ray, project director, NHAI, Bhubaneswar.

He said that the state government was planning to erect six flyovers at major crossings on the highway. These will be located at Baramunda, fire station, CRP, Acharya Vihar, Vani Vihar, and Rasulgarh. All these points fall between the stretch of the highway from Palasuni to Baramunda.

Now that the highway expansion and flyover construction projects are imminent, illumination of the highway, at an estimated cost of Rs 3.73 crore, would become unnecessary. “The BMC has requested us to allow three months to complete the project. We have yet not taken any decision on this,” he added.

Nearly 50,000 vehicles pass through this 13km stretch of the highway. Also, around 75 per cent of the city’s population depends on this stretch of the highway everyday.

Around 12,354 trucks, 1,560 buses, 16,878 four-wheelers, and 11,670 two-wheelers ply through this route daily.

Without proper illumination, traffic on this route — which passes through the heart of the city connecting major residential and commercial areas — have claimed many lives. On this stretch of the highway, 373 accidents occurred just in 2009. “Absence of streetlights has also posed a threat to the life of traffic personnel on duty. In 2009, a traffic constable and a home guard were killed and three traffic personnel injured while on duty on this stretch of the highway,” said a police officer.

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