The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the state government to expedite work on widening the Mumbai-Goa National Highway and to implement safety measures, including the construction of service roads, to prevent accidents and deaths and safeguard the lives of villagers in the region.
The court also ordered that work on fixing potholes be finished as rapidly as feasible so that motorists and anyone utilising the highway be inconvenienced as little as possible. The court ordered the authorities to expedite the road widening project so that it may be completed by December 2022.
Owais Anwar Pechkar, a resident of Chiplun city in Konkan and a regular commuter on the Mumbai-Goa highway, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking directions that steps be taken to fix and cover potholes on NH-66, which is prone to accidents, before a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni.
Pechkar claims that the Centre, the NHAI, and the state government have not done enough to address the various issues that commuters face on the road, which is being extended into a four-lane highway.
The bench had orally observed earlier this month 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 asked the authorities for progress report on the highway widening project.
According to Pechkar, over 2,442 people have died in accidents on the Mumbai-Goa Highway in the last ten years, and potholes must be filled as soon as possible to minimise fatalities during the impending 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 response to the plea, stating that four-laning work on 206.98 kilometres of the 355.28-kilometer road has been completed and work on the remaining 148.30 kilometres is ongoing, and that this length is kept “pothole-free.” The affidavit added, “Formation of potholes on roads in monsoon is routinely witnessed in this area due to excessive rainfall, and attending potholes is a continuous procedure that is conducted regularly."
Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, the Advocate General, provided a status report on the highway maintenance and pothole filling. Potholes on the roadway, which have appeared as a result of the monsoon, are being filled in the “right-earnest" to avoid any accidents, according to Kumbhakoni.
The court, on the other hand, noted that villagers were not provided with service roads, and that safety precautions and barricading were also required to prevent accidents and deaths. “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.
“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.”