Bombay high court frowned at the state government on its plans to construct the Greenfield Konkan Expressway from Mumbai to Sindhudurg when the four-laning work on Mumbai-Goa (NH66) is incomplete after over a decade.
“Without completing this, you are going for another highway to Sindhudurg... Unless you complete this work, we will not allow you to go ahead with any other project. Let the public reap the benefits of this project,’’ said Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni while hearing a PIL by advocate Owais Pechkar, that the work that began in 2010 is delayed and potholes are back.
Pechkar said while main highway work is pending, they are diverting the issue by announcing construction of the Rs 70,000 crore Expressway. “They don’t even respect court orders,’’ he said, adding that this is a second public interest litigation. The judges said the state must have a concrete policy for potholes. “We wonder why the state government does not think of a concrete policy to be implemented all over for potholes, given the number of deaths and traffic jams. Why can’t there be continuous maintenance to identify potholes?” asked justice Kulkarni.
He recalled being on a two-judge committee, in a PIL on potholes in Mumbai, before which a solution was given to repair potholes with a mix of old plastic bottles and had proved to be very effective. “Why this kind of technology is not used? ” he asked.
The bench pointed out that the first order on potholes was passed by justice (retired) R M Lodha in 1996. “We are in 2021. There is no improvement. We wonder if there is any will. Thanks to him, (justice Lodha) at least there are some places in Mumbai we can peacefully travel,” said justice Kulkarni.
According to the PIL, the contracts are given on an 84km stretch from Panvel to Indapur over which National Highway Authority of India has jurisdiction and on a 366km stretch from Indapur to Dharap in Sindhudurg which comes under the state Public Works Department.
Pechkar said that Nhai’s reply states that the contractor will complete the work on March 31, 2022 after receiving Rs 267 crore from lenders. The judges took note from a chart submitted by advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni most work has been completed, but for a portion where a contractor lagged and has been terminated. The AG said potholes are on diversion areas, not on the completed portions of the highway.
“We want to know what you will do regarding potholes,” said justice Kulkarni. The judges granted the state three weeks for pothole repairs. They said they will grant it time till December to complete the pending work.
We wonder why the state government does not think of a concrete policy to be implemented all over for potholes, given the number of deaths and traffic jams...