The draft Road Policy, released by the Government recently, is shy of clear proposal on the proposed expressway from Kasaragod to Trivandrum.
The proposal for an expressway, mooted by former Minister P. J. Joseph in the LDF Government, had attracted much criticism when the UDF Government went ahead with the plans. Apart from criticism on environmental grounds, one factor that turned away many from the proposal was the talk about commissions and real estate deals behind the project and issues of land acquisition. In fact, corruption had become a bane of almost all major projects in the State.
However, express highway is something needed by the State, considering the growth of cars and other vehicles in the State. If the government is unwilling to develop express way on some valid grounds, it should take steps to discourage the shift towards two wheelers and cars and encourage mass transport. However, the government is not willing to do either. It did not want to touch the car manufacturers on the wrong side. Nor is it willing to face public wrath over land acquisition and other criticism.
The Public Works Minister in the UDF Government M. K. Muneer tried to wriggle around the problem renaming the expressway as access controlled corridor. The present Government is claiming that the North-South road transport corridor proposed in the Policy is not the same as the expressway.
As the policy notes, the coastal and midland region of the state contains nearly 76 percent of the state’s population and contributes to a similar share of the gross state domestic product. Hence, development of a corridor through the midland region is a must unless the State is to face serious traffic jams. It is important that the North Kerala should have fast access to the South and the capital city.
However, development of missing links and improvement of existing roads along the Hill Highway is unnecessary. The population in the hilly areas is limited and there is little need for North South movement along the hills. What are needed are East-West roads connecting the hilly areas to the midlands and the coast. These should also carefully developed not to cause any pressure on the remaining forests on the Western Ghats.