Thursday, Sep 04, 2003
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By T. Ramakrishnan
Early last year, the draft policy was prepared and subsequently put on the Highways department web site.
Apart from restructuring the department, the policy will aim at adopting a coordinated approach to road development for promoting a sustainable road and transportation network and achieving public-private sector participation. It also seeks to ensure road safety and achieve professional management of highways assets and resources. Mitigation of environmental impact, provision of safeguards, and adoption of innovative and improved methods of road construction and maintenance will be among the objectives of the document.
According to the draft policy, the Government has accorded "in-principle approval" to the Institutional Development Strategy, suggested in an independent consultant's study carried out as part of the Tamil Nadu Road Sector Project (TNRSP). The study recommended establishment of an autonomous body by 2005 to develop a State-level policy and standards and a number of road management corporations for execution of works.
As for the financial mechanism, funds from the Rural Road Fund, the Central Road Fund and the fuel cess will be pooled in. To ensure private-public participation, road projects will hereafter be broadly divided into remunerative and non-remunerative categories. Those which come under the first category will be offered to entrepreneurs on the basis of BOO (build, operate and own) or BOT (build, operate and transfer) and BOOT (build, own, operate and transfer), while in respect of other projects, special purpose vehicles may be floated.
The document mentions that there will be many projects, which may not be commercially viable but are highly desirable in social terms. The surplus earned on remunerative projects could be used to finance the deficit in the non-viable projects.
The draft document indicates the Government's commitment to carry out environment impact assessments on all major roads. Already, the environment mitigation plan has been prepared for the roads coming under the TNRSP. For provision of green cover and landscaping, the private sector will be encouraged to sponsor programmes along specified stretches. The Highways department will involve local community/panchayat/youth clubs in planting and protection of plants along the roads.
To facilitate smooth land acquisition from private landowners, local non-governmental organisations will be involved in public hearings for them to present the viewpoints of the communities on design, execution and monitoring of rehabilitation and resettlement packages. About one per cent of the total budget for the road sector will be allocated for R&D.
The draft policy also talks of a Highways Development Programme, which was included in this year's budget proposals. Nearly 1,800 km of State Highways and major district roads will be taken up at a cost of Rs. 1,500 crores in three years.
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