Updated: July 10, 2021 7:08:22 pm
The Bombay High Court Friday directed the state government to speed up the widening work of the Mumbai-Goa National Highway, and take safety measures including building of service roads to prevent accidents and deaths and save lives of villagers in the area.
The court also ordered that the work on filling up potholes must be completed in an expeditious manner so that motorists and others using the highway are least inconvenienced. The court asked the authorities to speed up the widening work to ensure that the same is completed by December 2022.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Owais Anwar Pechkar, a resident of Chiplun city in Konkan and a regular commuter on Mumbai-Goa highway, seeking directions that steps be taken to fix and cover potholes on NH-66, which is prone to accidents.
Pechkar has claimed that the Centre, the NHAI and the state government have not taken sufficient steps to resolve the various issues faced by the commuters travelling on the road, which is being widened into a four-lane road. The widening work, delayed for years, causes difficulties for commuters, he added.
Earlier this month, the bench had orally observed that “the situation on the highway is not good.” “We want the Public Works Department (PWD) and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to look into the immediate issues, including the potholes. Monsoon is here. Accidents might happen and safety measures need to be taken,” the court said. The high court had also sought a progress report on the highway widening work from the authorities.
Pechkar submitted that in the last 10 years, nearly 2,442 people died due to accidents on the Mumbai-Goa Highway, and filling up of potholes was required to be done on an urgent basis to avoid fatalities during the upcoming Ganesh Utsav season, which is widely celebrated in the Konkan region.
The Public Works Department, through Shrikant Bangar, Executive Engineer, National Highway Division, Raigad district, filed an affidavit in reply to the plea which stated that of the 355.28-km road, four-laning work of 206.98 kms has been completed and the remaining 148.30 kms is under progress, adding that this length is maintained “pothole-free”. “Formation of potholes on roads in monsoon is routinely observed in this area on account of heavy rainfall and attending potholes is a continuous process and being executed regularly,” the affidavit stated.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted the progress report of work on the highway work and the filling of potholes. Kumbhakoni said potholes on the highway, which have surfaced because the monsoon, are being filled up in the “right-earnest” to avoid any accident.
The court, however, pointed out that service roads were not provided for villagers and safety measures and barricading were also required to avoid accidents and loss of lives. “You have to build service roads as it is going to be a high speed highway. There are unattended and unmarked speed breakers. There are no barricades and the same is causing problems. There has to be service roads at least near villages like you have on Pune-Satara road and other highways,” Justice Kulkarni said.
After perusing the affidavit in reply, the bench noted in its order, “We are of the considered opinion that progress achieved for completing the project within the deadline of December 2022 is reasonable, although a few of the contractors need to be persuaded to speed up the pace of the construction work so that the deadline can be met.”
It added, “Insofar as filling up potholes is concerned, we are of the view that the same ought to be completed as early as possible so that motorists and others using the highway are least inconvenienced.”
Posting the PIL for further hearing on August 27, the bench sought further status report on the progress achieved in filling up the potholes, following which, the court said it will pass new directions.
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