T.V.R. Shenoy on Rediffnews
A journalist in Delhi, K T V Raghavan of the Railway Board called me over, chuckling, to his office to show me a letter from the Calicut Municipal Corporation.The city fathers were requesting the railways to refrain from building their proposed rail overpasses.
Like most other cities in India, Kozhikode had grown by leaps, so that what had once been countryside was now well within the town.
This meant the gates were often shut at railway crossings when a train was due. The Railway Board in Delhi thoughtfully decided to build two or three overpasses so that road traffic would not be inconvenienced.
The municipal corporation politely demurred. The city fathers' point was that a lot of people were making a livelihood out of the bus and car passengers left stranded until a train roared past -- those selling everything from lemon juice and coconut water to flowers and magazines.
Calicut has paid more than enough for that decision. The city, which is depended on by people of over 6 districts of Malabar still has railway lines criss-crossing the urbanscapes and suburbs on numerous points. All for lemon-juice wallas, coconut vendors and Ma-gazine boys?
The article also mentions the history behind one of the proud-standing avenues of Kerala: the M.G. Road in Cochin. How the visionary in Sahodaran Ayyappan was brought down to his knees by the idealistic morons of the times, leading to a cut down in the width of M.G. Road from 100 feet (30 meters) to 70 feet (21 meters). Now the authorities are contemplating the Metro, BRTS et al on the avenue but the shortfall of that badly needed extra meters dwindle all plans.
The rise of NH Bypass is Cochin is a classic example. The spacious road is going to replace the MG Road as the state's major commercial avenue in a few years time. Space crunch has really started to take toll on the MG Road, and the NH Bypass provides answer to all the problems faced by the former. The reason: Bypass Road has enough width to accommodate an 8 lane carriageway, service roads and a median wide enough to think of the skyway or whatever they're thinking about.
The article points a finger at the incredible imprudence of our leaders and organizations and inability to learn from old mistakes, the saddest thing that they keep on committing the same old mistakes time and again. The suicidal proposal to curb the National Highway development from the initial 60 meters to 45 meters and lastly to 30 meters is an example.
The argument is that the the thousands of small-scale businesses and residences along the highway would have to be displaced throwing a question mark over their future. T.V.R. Shenoy rightly points out to the humane angle of the argument but if the shoe won't fit, fixing the foot is the solution?
Here the matter is simple. The Govt, nor the opposition wants to take on one of the biggest unions of our state: the Trader's Union (Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi). The state will suffer, but who cares? It's the vote-bank that matters folks!
I have nothing more to say about this ridiculous decision by the all-party-honchos to arrest our state's progress. The article below pretty much sums up why those few extra meters matter.
Roads to nowhere from Trivandrum Rising. Ajay Prasad explains the heart of the matter in consultation with a specialist in Highway Construction. I quote, with thanks:
"Within 30 m, one can only think of 4-lanes without service lanes. This necessitates 24 m of Right of Way (RoW) but does not include such critical things as a utility corridor (necessary to prevent the road being dug up every week or so) or the gradient needed to correct dangerous bends. Once this is taken into account, we need at least 32 m.
Once the essential service roads are brought in, the minimum RoW needed goes up to about 45 m. (This was the minimum figure agreed as an exception only for Kerala).
Finally, wherever grade separators - flyovers or underpasses - are needed, the minimum RoW width goes up to 52 m."
With 30 m RoW only, we will be left with no service roads, no utility corridor, no drains - in short, poor roads. Forget widening to 6-lanes!
And this is not rocket science. The width is calculated in very simple terms. For example,
RoW = Carriageway width + median width + shoulder width + drain width"
Kerala is dreaming tall about Techparks, container terminals, International Airports and all sort of hi-fi things by forgetting the most basic of the infrastructure: the roads. I doubt if we are heading towards becoming the first space-age state in the world where aam citizens use flying saucers and rocket ships for town-to-town transit and even to go to the local fish market. Or else we all should get the technology behind the Iron Man thing...go whoosh, and you're there!
The Govt was seriously looking at Cruise ships (!!) between Trivandrum, Cochin and Calicut; my plea is to implement them as soon as possible. Arabian Sea may be last hope for many of us, and it may appear a terrible cliche if you imagine yourself on our 30m wide NH 47 a few years from now, catch ma drift? :P
Because if this is the road we are going to take, then we'd better stop dreaming high. For, it's not us that build our roads, but its our roads that build our nation.