Uncertainties Grip NH-53 Development

IMPHAL, May 11: The sudden and unexpected approval of the Government of India to hand over the task of maintaining the National Highway 53, which could in no way be motorable during the rainy season, to the Public Works Department of the State Government and instruction for construction of the road under Bill Operate Transport (BOT) sys- tem under a tripartite agreement, which has come about just after the take-over, has left the fate of the second lifeline of Manipur hanging in balance.

According to a reliable source, acting on instruction of the Government of India to hand over the task of maintaining the stretch of the National Highway 53 from Imphal to Barak to the Public Works Department (PWD), the State Cabinet too has given its approval to the take-over. But close behind the heels of this take over, the direction for including the National Highway 53 under Phase-IV of National Highway Development Project and its development under BOT system has been given during a joint meeting attended by officials of State PWD and Ministry of Road Transports and Highways including its Director General, Additional DG and other high ranking officials.

The BOT system is to be implemented under a tripartite agreement involving the National Highway Authority of India, Government of Manipur and a construction company which could provide the required fund. After the construction of the road under such a tripartite agreement, the toll taxes to be collected from the commercial vehicles plying along the National Highway is to be shared with the funding company.

But considering the existing condition of the National Highway and the volume of commercial vehicles that could ply, there would be no company willing to put in their fund, thus rendering the proposed BOT system unviable.

The same issue had been brought to the notice of the Ministry from the side of the State PWD during the joint meeting and pressed for Budgetary support for the construction of the National Highway 53, the source disclosed.

The source pointed out that BOT system has not been viable in other North Eastern States like Assam and Meghalaya, whose volume of commercial vehicles is far better than that of Manipur. So, if the Government of India insists on construction and maintenance of National Highway 53 under the proposed BOT sys- tem, then there would be no other option but to set aside certain amount of the fund from the annual plan amount of Manipur.

Moreover, there are various portions along the stretch of the National Highway from Barak to Imphal which would not be motorable during the rainy sea- son at all.

Following the assurance of the BRO that construction of the National High- way would be completed before the onset of the rainy season and the strict monitoring by the State Government on the construction work, public have been hoping that condition of the road would improve at least to the level of motorable during the coming rainy season. However, fate of the road has been left hanging in the balance with one authority imposing the task over another.

(Courtesy:  The Sangai Express)

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