Take any road in our country, it is only a country road built by the British during the bullock cart era. The same were later given a cosmetic bitumen finish and we call them National Highway. Those times, they were the links between the points of civilization, connecting hills and hillocks and end up wherever there is a brook or river. Later culverts were designed to pass above the brooks, so that connectivity was established between villages. Arrival of Motor Vehicles necessitated building of bridges across rivers and then the linkage between the districts and states were established.
Bullcok carts and hand carts ruled the roads and it was an era of change – from palanquins to carts. But that was the story some sixty years back. The ambulance vehicles were never heard of since there were hospitals only at District or Taluk HQs. People were satisfied since the agrarian commune prevailed and there were less needs for transport of other than tools for cultivation and produces. After independence, hardly any road was newly built, sans some straightening here and there. Times have changed and we have Multi-axle trucks and container carriers sharing the road with goods autos.
All other vehicles including A/c superfast deluxe buses and luxurious sedans either trail behind the LPG tankers or stumble upon the paths of a stage carrier minibus or Passenger Autorickshaw or remain waiting for clearance of traffic of even tricycles of the handicapped, at cross roads. Those are two lane roads, but virtually they become single lane owing to the said reasons. Never you can overtake a single vehicle before you trail for a couple of kilometers since you do not have sufficient visibility ahead owing to curves and rise-ups. Convoys of VIPs alone are exempted from such bridles by the by virtue of pilot vehicles. And now in Kerala, we are going to make those roads into four lane ‘Notional Highways’.
And that is when other states are paving way for six lanes and eight lanes. Fly-overs are not in our agenda yet, and it seems customary that the high way should pass through every marketplace en-route. The express highway project that came up earlier, gave way to disputes that it resembles Berlin wall, and that the mobility in villages will get lost. But the concept was right in the sense that a fresh and virgin alignment proved less expensive and easier for execution. The foremost advantage was that there would be least demolition of structures thereby lessening the burden of compensation and rehabilitation.
Utilization of natural resources to substitute the lost monuments will be bare minimum. Development of new area was another benefit in the long run. But the project saw its fate too soon owing to lack of enough transparency. Also that limited access and approaches to the highway, as propagated; tended people to walk away from the idea such that stiff opposition sprout up right from the time of surveying. Entire state of Kerala is having a hilly terrain save for the coastal belt.
So are the roads, resembling the curves of a serpent gliding over the rocks. Hardly we have a kilometer of road without a bend and it is quite impossible to straighten areas of inhabitation. When highways in other states have a curve at an average of ten kilometers, we have ten curves every kilometer. Whereas, despite the dense population and commercialization of land, we still have an abundant region of valleys and fields which are scarcely inhabited, through which straight roads can be constructed in four or eight lanes even now. This will certainly reduce the overall distance by fifteen to twenty percent and save journey time to even half of now. There will be least opposition as the places have less commercial value.
Such roads can be built with fly-overs with wings wherever necessary and to provide approach from other important roads. Surveying can be done using the mapping resources from the internet. It is quixotic to go after widening of existing roads to make it a highway which is quite impossible in this era and which will not prove effective too, as it does not cater even to the present day requirements. Unfortunately these facts never come into consideration while decisions are taken at the highest level. Those who are at the helm of affairs, seem to be least worried about the intricacies involved nor bothered about the end results. The only voice heard is that there should not be any BOLTs!(Build Operate Lease/Transfer). But it is a misunderstanding on the grounds that Toll will have to be collected from the Road users. But those who opt for service roads will be exempted from the toll.
Giving away with the toll is also possible by allowing leased townships along the highway developments Non-governmental organizations and others in the social strata should come forward to rectify the anomalies in road making.