It was in 2007 that the Haryana government first conceptualised the Dwarka Expressway, envisioning it as a northern ring road that would provide additional connectivity between the national capital and adjoining Gurgaon. It was also expected to reduce the load on existing road networks connecting the two cities — National Highway 48, Old Delhi road, and the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road.
Over 10 years after the network was first conceptualised, as part of the Development Plan 2031 of the Gurgaon Manesar Urban Complex, it is yet to see the light of day.
Multiple roadblocks, including litigation, disputes over compensation and, lately, politics have meant that work on the two sections of the Expressway that lie in Haryana has only just begun, while that on the two sections falling in Delhi is yet to commence.
With officials from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which has been overseeing the project since 2016, saying “each section will take 24 months to be completed after construction begins”, and two major roadblocks — a 1-km patch of land in Haryana, and over 13,000 trees in Delhi — still in existence, chances of the project finishing anytime soon appear bleak.
The Dwarka Expressway, as per its current alignment, will commence at Km 20 Shiv Murti of NH-48, and terminate at Km 40, 2 km before the point where Kherki Daula toll plaza currently stands. A ‘grade separated full cloverleaf’ is also planned at its termination point on NH-48, to “enable the continuity of Dwarka Expressway with SPR (Southern Peripheral Road), completing the western ring of Gurgaon”.
The Expressway will, hence, connect Sector 21 in Dwarka with NH-48, while passing through Sectors 88, 84, 83, and 99 to 113 of Gurgaon.
“Once operational, this expressway will provide an alternative route to commuter traffic between residential centres of Dwarka, Najafgarh and West Delhi destined towards employment centres of Eastern and Western Gurgaon, completely bypassing NH-8. It will also facilitate regional traffic movement from Western Delhi towards Southern Haryana and Rajasthan via Pataudi Road, NH-8 and the proposed Delhi-Jaipur Expressway,” states the Draft Feasibility Report of Package 3 of the Expressway, prepared by NHAI in 2017.
This, however, was not the original alignment of the project. It was initially supposed to run from Km 42 near the toll plaza, being connected to it via a Connecting Peripheral Road (CPR), an arterial road near Sector 83. The road was then supposed to pass through north of Gurgaon, cutting across Pataudi road, Jhajjar road, Najafgarh road, and finally culminate at Urban Extension Road II (UER II) in Dwarka.
Due to land acquisition issues, officials realised the Northern Peripheral Road (NPR) intersection with NH-48 would not be possible, and it was decided that the Expressway would include the entire section of CPR and terminate at the intersection of CPR-NH48-SPR, 1.5 km before its original endpoint. As per this plan, the expressway was expected to have a total length of 21.3 km, of which 18.1 km would fall in Haryana and 3.2 km in Delhi.
However, the alignment underwent another change after the project was handed over to the NHAI in 2016 when, “in order to keep the continuity of connectivity between sections of National Highway”, it was decided to also include 6.3 km of UER II and Shiv Murti in the Expressway. This increased the length of the entire Expressway to 27.6 km and the total length in Delhi to 9.5 km.
Obstacles en route
According to NHAI officials, the Expressway, construction of which is expected to cost around Rs 9,000 crore, has been divided into “4 contract packages” or sections. The first two fall in Delhi and the last two in Haryana.
The first package, measuring 5 km, runs between Shiv Murti and the Railway Under-Bridge (RUB) near Dwarka Sector 21, while the second, measuring 4.5 km, runs from the RUB near Dwarka Sector 21 to the Delhi-Haryana border. The third package runs between the Delhi-Haryana border and the Railway Over Bridge (ROB) in Basai, and is 10.2 km long, while the last measures 7.9 km and runs from the Basai ROB to the endpoint of the expressway at Km 40 near Kherki Daula, where it terminates in the cloverleaf.
Of the four, construction has only commenced on the third and fourth packages that fall in Haryana, with work being allotted to Larsen & Toubro (L&T) in the first week of December last year. Even along this stretch, however, NHAI officials said they are yet to be handed a patch of land on which “around 1 km” of the Expressway will run, and another patch required for the cloverleaf.
Union Minister of Road Transport Highways & Shipping Nitin Gadkari had also drawn attention to this in a letter to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on January 2.
“I am strained to inform you that the land acquired by HUDA has neither been demarcated on ground nor been made encumbrance free. There are standing structures, which need to be demolished, including allotment of plots to some oustees…,” Gadkari said in the letter.
“Moreover, NHAI has also acquired additional land for cloverleaf, on specific request of government of Haryana, but district administration is yet to handover possession of this additional land…,” he wrote.
Officials from the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), which is overseeing transfer of land from Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP) to NHAI, however, offered reassurance that the work will be completed “within a week”.
“Ninety-three per cent of the land needed for NPR has been handed over to NHAI. The remaining land has been demarcated and structures on it are being cleared. This will also be handed over within a week,” said KC Sharma, consultant, GMDA.
Reiterating this, HSVP administrator Chander Shekhar Khare said, “We have also demarcated the land for the cloverleaf and are conducting a survey to determine how many structures there are legal and illegal. Once work on the last patch of land to be handed over to NHAI for the NPR is completed, we will begin work on the illegal structures.”
Despite these hindrances, some progress has been made on packages 3 and 4 as compared to the sections in Delhi. Packages 1 and 2 are stuck in the initial stages, with the Aam Aadmi Party-led government in Delhi withholding permission to fell over 13,000 trees that stand along the alignment of the project.
According to documents accessed by The Indian Express, while Package 1 requires 6,187 trees to be felled, Package 2 requires chopping of 7,503 trees. NHAI officials said they have repeatedly applied for permission to fell a total of 13,690 trees, but to no avail.
“The Public Works Department cannot do anything about it. How can we allow them to cut 10,000 trees for a project? The project was envisioned by the Haryana government without consultation with the Delhi government,” said Delhi PWD Minister Satyendar Jain.
As roadblocks in the path of the Dwarka Expressway continue to persist, the brunt of the problem is borne by residents and commuters in both Gurgaon and Delhi, including those who have purchased homes in gated condominiums that came up along the Dwarka Expressway, touted, at the time of its inception, as a fast developing area.
“There is no major arterial road other than the Dwarka Expressway on the western side of the city, and with that yet to be completed, the 70,000-80,000 vehicles that would have been diverted through it are now travelling by other routes, including NH-48 as well as residential areas like Palam Vihar. This is not only increasing congestion but also leading to more pollution, especially in residential areas not meant to handle that kind of load,” said Dr Sewa Ram, Professor of Urban Planning, School of Planning and Architecture.
The NHAI’s Draft Feasibility Report for Package 3 also indicates this, revealing that each of the sections of the expressway was expected to cater to over 30,000 passenger car units by 2021. By 2025, these figures were expected to rise to over 65,000 for each of the stretches, with the NH-48 Shiv Murti to Dwarka Sector 21 section crossing the figure of 1 lakh.
“Other expressways like the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway (or the Western Peripheral Expressway) are also not seeing as much traffic as expected because the direct access that Dwarka Expressway would have provided to the area is missing. In addition, people are no longer investing in the area due to lack of access since the expressway is not complete. The economic investment it can bring is hence not happening,” said Dr Ram.
People who have invested in gated condominiums and townships along the Expressway over the last 12 years have, meanwhile, been holding protests and hunger strikes to press for its completion.
According to Pradip Rahi, General Secretary of the DXP Welfare Association, formed in 2016 to represent the interest of homebuyers of New Gurgaon, a total of around 1.35 lakh families have purchased homes in new sectors along the Expressway.
Rahi himself bought two flats in Ramprastha City, a township along the Expressway, in 2010, after taking a loan.
“I got possession of the flats in January 2017, but did not dare to move in for the first few months because there was no proper connectivity. A private school and a hospital were also supposed to be built here, but authorities have decided against it because, with the Expressway still incomplete, connectivity remains a major problem,” said Rahi.
Problems are magnified for women and children in the area, said residents, with kids having to travel almost two hours a day to and from school. Before that, their parents have to drop them to bus stops at least 2-3 km away.
Women, meanwhile, complained of lack of safety. “There is no lighting along the roads in this area, so we hardly venture out after 7 pm. I used to work as a teacher at a private school in Dwarka before we moved here in 2015, but had to give up my job because commuting to this area was a problem,” said Kanchan Jain, a resident of Sector 109.
“Even now, cab drivers refuse to drop us here. They hear Dwarka Expressway and cancel the ride. We had to hire a driver. When we moved in 2015, we were given the impression that the Expressway would be completed in six months. It has now been more than three years, and we are still waiting for that to happen,” she said.