Work on Mumbai-Goa highway incomplete since 12 years
Of the many construction projects that have been fast-tracked lately, an important connector between Mumbai and Goa – NH 66 -- which started 12 years ago, has been forgotten. Approximately 2442 residents of Konkan have lost their lives in accidents between January 2010 and April 2021, while many more are suffering permanent disabilities
Mumbai: Of the many construction projects that have been fast-tracked lately, an important connector between Mumbai and Goa – NH 66 -- which started 12 years ago, has been forgotten. Approximately 2442 residents of Konkan have lost their lives in accidents between January 2010 and April 2021, while many more are suffering permanent disabilities. This was envisoned as a four-lane highway, at an estimated project cost of ₹11,500 crore.
Today, people travelling from Mumbai to Goa take the Mumbai-Pune-Kolhapur-Savantwadi road as an alternative route. Although this adds 100 kilometers to their travel, it takes them less time (10 hours) to reach their destination, than the under-construction NH 66. What should have been an 11-hour drive through NH 66 now takes nearly 18 hours.
To shake decision makers out of their apathy, frustrated Konkan residents have now formed a group to claim their right – a safe and motorable highway.
The citizens’ group, called the Mumbai-Goa Highway Dhyeypurti Samitee (MGHDS), a non-political organisation, is fighting for highway-related issues. Members held a press conference in Mumbai a couple of weeks ago to garner support and to bring to light bumpy roads and a treacherous ghat along the way. Only 67 per cent of the work along the route has been completed in 12 years. The group met citizens from Konkan who reside in Mumbai to join them in solidarity.
An MGHDS member Rupesh Darge, who works in Vikhroli, travels to his village, Mangaon, on his bike during festivals. The three-and-a-half hour journey takes him six. Using the bike is his only option so that he can navigate the potholes along the way. After Diwali this year, Rupesh expressed his anger in a social media post this year. This was the beginning of a movement.
“In 10 days since the post, around 20 organisations from the vicinity got in touch with me and we held our first meeting on November 20,” said Rupesh. “I am not a big leader nor do I have any political support. I just appealed to everyone to come together for the road work of Konkan.” The organisation now has 20 WhatsApp groups and around 15,000 members.
“The central government has promised to adhere to a deadline of December 2023 to complete this road in the Bombay high court. We want at least one lane to start before Holi next year,” he said.
When he was driving from Kolad to Nagothane four years ago, Nishikant Talekar (28) his bike came under the wheel of a truck, as the latter tried to skirt a pothole. Nishikant died on the spot in the accident. Ninad Talekar, his brother, said, “At that time trucks were banned on the highway, and yet this came from nowhere and my brother was killed. This is because of potholes and stalled road work; so I am participating in this protest.”
The group is planning a mass agitation, where at least one lakh Konkan refugees will walk from Mumbai to Sindhudurg, in Konkan, on a single day, early next year.
Jayendra Khanvilkar, a resident of Rajapur, said his family had handed over their ancestral land to the government to construct the bridge for the highway, but are yet to receive any compensation after eight years. “We were told that our land would be taken first as the bridge was going to be constructed. At the time, the land was in our mother’s name. She consented but where is the payment,” asked Jayendra.
Over a decade down the line, villagers travelling on the route are suffering, faced with a challenge to traverse the road.
Explaining his travel from Mumbai towards Goa, Rupesh said, “The highway starts from Palaspe and thereafter, along areas such as Kolad Nak, Vadakhal and Nagothane are pothole-ridden. Cars breakdown often. Also, since there is no service road on this entire highway, one has to come directly on the highway from a village. As a result, this highway has become a death-trap with innumerable accidents taking place.”
HT’s efforts to get in touch with project officers of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), tasked to build the highway, were futile. Our emails and phone calls went unanswered.
Advocate Owais Pechkar filed a petition in Bombay high court in 2018, just before the Ganpati festival. “In the first hearing, the court ordered that the potholes must be filled temporarily to make the commuters’ drive smooth,” said Pechkar. “After this, the road construction work got a boost. But in 2021, the government cancelled the contract of the contractor working on one of the lanes, due to his laxity. He has now moved Delhi high court to get a stay on the government’s order. This will be clarified in the next hearing.”