Legal opinion sought on whether NHAI can build smart cities along Delhi-Mumbai Expressway: Nitin Gadkari

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NEW DELHI: The government is awaiting legal opinion on whether the NHAI can construct smart cities, villages and logistic parks along the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project that could usher in development in the most backward, tribal and far-flung areas, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has said.

The Rs 1 lakh crore flagship Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project being built on a new alignment will pass through backward and far-flung tribal areas of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan and is scheduled to be completed within three years.

“We are looking into building smart cities, villages, logistic parks, industrial clusters and road side amenities besides other facilities along the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, which is on a new alignment.

“We have sought legal opinion on whether National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) can build it. If the legal opinion comes positive then we will immediately proceed in this direction,” Road Transport, Highways and MSME Minister Gadkari told in an interview.

The Minister said, though the provisions are there for it in the NHAI constitution since the time it was incorporated but the Ministry is still taking a legal opinion so that it can proceed on the ambitious project as it would change the face of development in tribal areas, which are backward and shorn of development.

In case the opinion is in negative then “we will seek Cabinet nod on the proposal,” he said and added that the move will not only result in development of the areas but would also generate huge employment opportunities.

He said the project offers huge opportunities as besides smart cities and villages a large number of leather, plastic, chemical and other clusters are being planned along the greenfield highway that is expected to cut down the travel time between Delhi and Mumbai to just 12 hours by reducing 220 km distance.

“We have already saved Rs 16,000 crore on land acquisition as it is on a new alignment and the land acquisition cost came to Rs 10 to Rs 15 lakh per acre in comparison to exorbitant Rs 2 to 3 crore per acre along existing highways… Once this highway will be built, the land cost along it will become manifold,” the Minister said and added “NHAI will acquire the land for projects.”

Once the approvals are in place, the work on such projects could start in collaboration with private developers, state governments, or industry players, he said and added that “in the developed pockets along clusters we are planning schools and hospitals, connectivity to road, rail, airports etc… NHAI will get money.”

One such cluster has been planned at Thane in Maharashtra, where he said, the planning was to shift about 1.5 lakh leather workers from Dharavi, one of the biggest slums in Asia.

“Talks are on with the Maharashtra government on this and if they join hands, we can start work on the project immediately as this could not only decentralise Mumbai but would provide the workers an opportunity to live with dignity,” he said.

Besides smart cities, villages and clusters, there are plans to build 2,000 roadside amenities and logistic parks, he said and added the government plans to complete this highway within three years and 32 of the total 60 packages (contracts) of this project have already been awarded.

National Highways Authority of India was set up by an act of the Parliament, NHAI Act, 1988 for development, maintenance and management of national highways.

National Highways are the arterial roads of the country for inter-state movement of passengers and goods. They traverse the length and width of the country connecting the National and State capitals, major ports and rail junctions and link up with border roads and foreign highways.

The total length of NH (including expressways) in the country at present is 1,32,499 kms. While Highways/Expressways constitute only about 2 per cent of the length of all roads, they carry about 40 per cent of the road traffic.

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Tagged delhi-mumbai expressway, dharavi, MSME, National Highways Authority of India, Nitin gadkari

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