Work in progress on the Parwanoo-Solan highway widening project on Friday. The National Highway Authority of India plans to complete work on it by December this year.(HT Photo)
Work in progress on the Parwanoo-Solan highway widening project on Friday. The National Highway Authority of India plans to complete work on it by December this year.(HT Photo)

Widening of Parwanoo-Solan highway in Himachal hits Covid hurdle, set to miss second deadline

IN THE SLOW LANE Work started in 2015 but lack of coordination and labour shortage amid pandemic are roadblocks in journey to completion
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Gaurav Bisht, Shimla
UPDATED ON AUG 21, 2020 04:27 PM IST

The National Highway 22 four-laning project between Parwanoo and Solan is set to miss its extended deadline of September 30, 2020, chiefly due to lack of coordination among the multiple agencies executing it.

Though the widening of the highway is meant to curtail the travel time to Shimla, work has been in slow progress on the 40-km stretch after hitting roadblocks, the latest being the labour shortage amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Though we haven’t set a new deadline but we hope to complete the work by December-end. The labour shortage due to the coronavirus crisis has hit progress,” says National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) regional officer GSS Sangha.

“There were around 1,200 workers deployed on the project, but even now many migrant labourers, who left for their native places amid the pandemic, have not returned,” says Sangha.

88% OF EXPANSION COMPLETE IN STAGE 1

NHAI had allocated the four-laning work on the 40-km stretch connecting Himachal Pradesh’s Parwanoo and Solan towns to GR Infra Projects Limited but lack of coordination between different agencies has delayed the project that was to be completed by September-end. This despite 88% of the work on the expansion of the stretch already completed.

Work on the project started on September 21, 2015, and was scheduled to be completed on March 21, 2018. But due to hurdles, the next date of completion of the project was fixed for September 30, 2020.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs 748.7 crore for the first stage.

HURDLES ON THE WAY

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had halted the felling of trees for the highway widening, while the loose strata of soil in areas where the cutting had taken place led to landslides, hampering the project.

The lack of coordination in getting permission for approach roads to the 681-metre flyover in Kumarhatti added to the delay. Land acquisition for 300 metres of stretch on both sides of the flyover was also delayed.

At present, work is underway at snail’s pace on the road over the 160-metre bridge near the Timber Trail resort road junction.

ONLY 18% WORK DONE IN STAGE 2

Work on the second stage of the project’s 23-km stretch from Solan to Kaithlighat was awarded to Ms Airef Engineer Private Limited and Parkash Esphaltings and Toll Highways Limited on March 28, 2018.

The company started work in November that year and is scheduled to complete the Rs 598-crore four-laning by May 2021.

So far, only 18% of the work on the project has been completed.

There is a proposal to build a 460-metre tunnel and 368-metre flyover in Kandaghat. But the government is yet to allot a dumping site for debris being extracted for the road widening.

Work on the 27.5-metre road stretch between Kaithlighat and Dhalli has been hit after the government terminated the concessionaire agreement in 2019 even though the agreement for work was reached with M/s Shiv Valley Highways Limited.

The Himachal Pradesh government plans to enhance amenities along the highway between Parwanoo and Shimla. There is a proposal to construct shopping malls along the highway.

Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, who also holds the public works department charge, has directed the NHAI to complete the project by the year-end.

WORK IN PROGRESS

September 21, 2015: Work on the 40-km Parwanoo-Solan four-laning project starts.

March 21, 2018: Initial deadline for project to be completed.

March 28, 2018: Work on second stage for 23-km stretch from Solan to Kaithlighat allotted.

September 30, 2020: Extended deadline for completion of project that is set to be missed, too.

COST FACTOR

Estimated cost of project’s stage 1: Rs 748.7 crore

Estimated cost of stage 2: Rs 598 crore

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