Mangaluru: The national highways authority of India (NHAI) has proposed to close the Shirdi Ghat section of the National Highway 75 for 6 months for the 4-laning work between Donigal to Maranahalli. The closure of the highway right in the middle of a pandemic has invited sharp reactions in the coastal districts.
The NHAI has appealed to the Hassan District Collector to issue orders for the closure. Many in Dakshina Kannada have opined that traffic between Mangaluru and Bengaluru will be disrupted if the request is accepted.
Hassan District administration also has similar reservations about the proposal. NH75 is a major highway and its closure for 6 months is difficult. In view of this, Hassan DC R Girish has asked NHAI to “review if the construction work can be completed early or an alternate arrangement can be made.”
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NH75 is a major artery that connects the coastal districts and New Mangalore Port with the Highlands of Karnataka including Hassan and the state’s capital Bengaluru. Thousands of buses, trucks, containers, cars, taxis, and maxi cabs ply on this highway every day. For two years, Covid restrictions have hit the coastal economy and life hard. People of the coast are now worried that the closure of Shiradi ghat will create more hardships for the already battered economy.
Reacting to the proposal, KCCI chairman Shashidhar Pai Marur said that the closure will definitely bring hardships for people from all walks of life in the coastal districts. “We have submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner, MPs, ministers, and MLAs about this,” he said.
CII Mangaluru Chairman Jeevan Saldanha opined that a complete closure of ghat road will hit industries, transport sector and coastal economy. Sadananda Chatra, general secretary, Karnataka Tourist Bus Malakara Sangha, said that the road should be partially opened for traffic during the construction work.
6 months for constructing 10 km stretch?
The time duration for constructing 10 kilometer stretch of highway has also raised eyebrows. Why does the NHAI need 6 months to construct a 10 km stretch of the road even with modern construction methods, many wanted to know.
NHAI has clarified that the construction is slowed down by the steep turns and the topography of the section of the highway. A heavy retention wall also needs to be built to avoid any landslips, it said, justifying the time duration for the construction.
Delays in the earlier construction work have also raised apprehensions among people. None of the earlier work undertaken at Shirdi Ghat has been completed within the stipulated time. There are naturally doubts whether the proposed work will be completed within 6 months as promised.
Previous experiences have shown that the existing alternate roads, — including Bisle Ghat-Gundya, Sampaje Ghat, Charmadi Ghat — are not able to cater to the heavy traffic when the Shiradi Ghat is closed.
Mangaluru MP Nalin Kumar Kateel assured to take up the matter with the concerned authorities. “Alternative arrangements will be discussed and actions will be taken so that traffic movement is not affected,” he said.