Saturday, 1 August 2015

NHAI & Haryana government to NGT: Expressways will be finished in 3 years

National Highways Authority of India and the Haryana government have given undertakings to National Green Tribunal on Thursday that the eastern peripheral expressway will be ready by July 2018 while the Manesar-Palwal stretch of the western peripheral expressway will be completed by January 2016.

NGT has got representatives of NHAI and the Haryana government to sign on its order that they will meet these deadlines. The move comes after the tribunal pulled up both agencies over inordinate delays in awarding these projects, the massive air pollution problem in Delhi not withstanding. Once built, the two peripheral routes can take more than 80,000 diesel-run heavy vehicles off Delhi's roads.

The Haryana government, however, said the 82km road from Kundli to Manesar will take two-and-a-half years to be ready from the date of starting construction.

Exasperated over the long delay in starting the projects, the NGT bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, asked the Haryana government, "Why are two-and-a-half years an absolutely sacrosanct timeline for completing the project? Why can't you ensure it's done earlier?" It also asked NHAI the same question.

NHAI member, finance, Satish Chandra submitted that roller compacted concrete projects cannot usually be completed before two years. The stretch also involves two bridges over Yamuna and possibly building a structure on a canal. Tenders have been initiated and would be opened on August 6. Work would be awarded immediately.

Haryana additional advocate general Anil Grover said the government is planning to have an incentive clause for the contractor to complete the project before deadline. "The Supreme Court has been directing you to expedite the projects for so many years," the bench observed. "What kind of efficiency is this? Would a private concern wait six years to get a bid?" it had said earlier.

The bench also pulled up NHAI for not installing weighbridges at different entry points to the capital. It strongly objected to NHAI's submission that it was not possible to install weighbridges at all entry points except six.

"You are saying you will install weighbridges only on highways. What about other entry points? Trucks will take other routes and enter the city... Out of 53 entry points to the capital you are willing to install weigh bridges only on six," the bench said.

Recounting how teams from the Delhi transport department, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and other departments had found only eight of 112 diesel-run heavy vehicles at borders during a recent inspection, the bench pulled up authorities for checking emissions only of stationary vehicles.

"Why can't pollution level of a running vehicle be checked? It's no excuse that you don't have a mechanism. If the vehicle is stationary, there is no pressure on the engine," the bench said.

"Real pollution is coming from the vehicles running day and night. Today, persons coming from abroad fall sick in Delhi within a week. They are okay the moment they leave the capital. Let us not do this to the people."

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