Rajakumari, Idukki: The National Highways Authority of India is busy trying to finish work on the 35-km Munnar-Bodimet segment of the Kochi-Dhankushkodi route ahead of the arrival of tourists to witness the blooming of Neelakurinji flower (Strobilanthes kunthianus) in Munnar. The effort is on to complete at least part of the work before tourists arrive to witness the rare phenomenon of nature which happens only once in 12 years.
Widening of road in the 31-km-stretch from Munnar to Poopara is 75% complete. Authorities expect the rock-breaking work on the Devikulam gap road to be over within three-and-a half weeks. Traffic has been regulated here from 8 am to 12.30 pm and again from 1.30 pm to 5 pm.
The Poopara-Bodimet road, 11 km, is being developed on a war footing.
Kurinji season begins in August. If tarring gets delayed due to rains, metalling will be completed using the granular subbase so that smooth traffic flow is ensured.
Ease of travel
The road is being built for ease of travel with limited climb and with level surface. The two-lane road is 7 m wide with shoulders 1.5 m wide. The total width becomes 10 m when tarring is complete.
A drain of 50 cm width will also be made. Croton plants, popular for its bright, colorful foliage, will be cultivated in the median divider.
The route will have new retaining walls for 15.5 km. Crash barriers on a 20-km stretch and 124 culverts are also planned. Slab-covered drains that are 250 m long will be laid on both sides of the road at Devikulam, Munnar and Poopara towns.
Nineteen bus stops, four viewpoints for tourists, and warning signs are also to be set. The road is being built with diversions from the existing route at Moolathara S-curve area and Poopara town. A new 200-m long road and a bridge will be constructed at Poopara to reduce congestion in the town.
Deadline August 2019
The two-year time limit set for the highway construction ends in August 2019. The targeted time for completion is 18 months. But a forest department objection to felling of trees as also for the road building delayed work by six months. Rain also affected the construction.
There have been complaints that the forest department is delaying work on the highway. They have to fix prices for trees that are cut off. Once they fix the price, the NHAI assigns contract for removing the trees. The government had asked the forest department to fix prices of trees except those in estate areas, but they have done it for half of the trees only. Trees on the other areas remain intact as construction work proceeds.
The estimate for the project is Rs 380.41 crore, out of which Rs 298 crore is for the construction alone. The Gujarat-based D S Agarwal Co has been assigned the work.