As part of the Agenda Setting before the Tamil Nadu Government’s Global Investors Meet (GIM), scheduled to held in the month of September this year, Port Wings has planned to bring out series of articles on the major issues pertaining to the EXIM sector every week. This week, we analyse about the importance of Chennai Port -Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway.
The inordinate delay in completing the all-important Chennai Port -Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway, which was primarily conceived as a permanent solution to growing congestion of heavy vehicles (container trailers and vehicles carrying ODC cargoes) plying between Chennai Port and outskirts of city via Chennai’s arterial roads, is not only killing the growth of EXIM trade in the region, but also demoralize the investors’ confidence on the Tamil Nadu state.
As a cascading effect of the defunct project, exporters and importers from Tamil Nadu, who naturally preferred the Chennai Port for their needs for decades, slowly shifting their operations to ports located in neighbouring states.
TESTING TIME FOR TAMIL NADU:
Since the project is now caught in the legal web and its effect is being largely felt on the EXIM trade, Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Mr Nitin Gadkari (during his visit to Tamil Nadu last November) even suggested for an “Out of Court” settlement with the Tamil Nadu Government.
However, nothing has moved since then and the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Ms J Jayalalithaa has her task cut out on the Elevated Expressway project.
According to sources, if the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa speeds up the process and accepts the opinion of Mr Gadkari’s “Out of Court” settlement on the Elevated Expressway Project, it would send a right signal among the potential investors and could help her to harp on the improved image of the Tamil Nadu state in the Global Investors Meet.
According to experts, if the project gets a green signal from the Tamil Nadu government, it would help those EXIM players, who left the Chennai Port in the past due to lack of road connectivity, to rethink on coming back to Chennai Port again.
The project, on completion, will give a seamless and round-the-clock movement of container trailers to and from the Chennai Port. Besides, it will help the port to generate revenue for both the State government as well as the Union Government.
It has been more than three years since the Tamil Nadu State government put a spanner in the 19-km long Chennai Port -Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway project citing slight deviation from approved alignment.
ELEVATED EXPRESSWAY PROJECT:
With a view to alleviate the perennial congestion of heavy vehicles on Chennai’s arterial roads which could create serious problems for other common road users in the future if not arrested on time, major stakeholders — Chennai Port, a Central government-maintained major port, and the Tamil Nadu state government – have planned for a better road connectivity to ensure seamless movement of cargo towards Chennai Port round-the-clock without disturbing common road users.
After much deliberation on the prospective plans for all users – regular motorists as well as heavy vehicles, it was finally decided that an elevated expressway project from Chennai Port upto Maduravoyal, which is the important entry point for all kinds of commercial vehicles to port, should be developed, so that traffic congestion could be arrested in future.
As a next step, the Government of India in December 2008 gave its nod for development of four-lane elevated road from Chennai Port to Maduravoyal under its flagship scheme of National Highways Development Programme (NHDP) Phase VII.
The project, which started in September 2010 at the behest of Tamil Nadu Government and Chennai Port Trust and due to be completed by September 2013 (as per 2010 schedule) would cut down the travel time between the port and Maduravoyal, on the city outskirts, from more than two hours to just 15-20 minutes.
ADVANTAGES OF THE PROJECT:
Under NHDP Phase VII, the Government of India had approved the construction of standalone ring roads, bypasses, grid separators, flyovers, elevated roads, tunnels, road over bridge, underpasses, service roads, etc. in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
The need for a dedicated freight road emerged as a better solution, as Chennai Port has experienced a steady increase in the volume of traffic handled over the years, which in turn has increased the traffic on the internal roads of the Port.
The Elevated Expressway project came in to existence due to certain traffic restrictions on movement of heavy vehicles to Chennai Port on NH-4 within Chennai city.
The state government of Tamil Nadu in 2008 also agreed to the alignment of this elevated road and also to carry out the land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement on a 50:50 cost basis between the Chennai Port Trust and state government. The Chennai Port Trust would initially bear the entire cost and subsequently 50 % of the cost reimbursed from the state government.
The project has been envisaged to provide an all-time road without any traffic regulatory obstacles so that Port can be approached directly from the outskirts of Chennai city without interfering the city traffic by all commercial vehicles.
For general traffic (non-commercial users), entry/exit ramps are proposed on Kamarajar Salai (Exit), Sivananda Salai (Entry), College Road (Entry) and Spur Tank Road( Exit). The project was planned on Design, Build, Finance, Operate & Transfer (DBFOT) basis and the concession period was decided as 15 years in accordance with the design capacity of the highways. The project has been divided into two
sections. In section -1, road from Chennai Port to Koyambedu – total length 14.2 Km including the ramps at Koyambedu would be developed. In section -2, it was decided that project from Koyambedu to Maduravoyal – widening of NH4 from and elevated road should be carried out.
Though the then Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh laid foundation stone for the important connectivity project in January 2009, work on the Koyambedu to Maduravoyal section of the Elevated Road began only in September 2010.
The work on the Chennai Port to Koyambedu section started only in March 2011 after receiving the Centre’s CRZ clearance for the section since it runs along the River Cooum, one of the important waterways in city.
Though the implementing authority of the project, NHAI started to fast track the project after so-much undue delays, Tamil Nadu government put a spanner on its work citing deviation from approved alignment along River Cooum in March 2012. Ever since the objection and “Stop Work” notice by the State’s PWD department, work on the Rs 2000-crore came to a grinding halt.
CAUGHT IN THE LEGAL WEB:
With the project was forced to halt in the face of PWD’s objection, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has moved the Madras High Court seeking directions to the state authorities to execute it as agreed earlier.
According to the prayer, NHAI sought quashing of a letter by the Chief Engineer of Water Resource Organisation, Public Works Department, asking NHAI to obtain revised Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance for the 19-km long ‘Chennai Port-Maduravoyal Elevated Corridor, and carry out certain remedial measures.
This direction to obtain revised CRZ clearance was nothing but arbitrary exercise of power, malafide against the spirit of public interest and various orders passed by the Tamil Nadu government, NHAI claimed in the petition.
The implementing agency also submitted before the court that though necessary clearances and approvals had been obtained from concerned departments/agencies before commencing the project, after the change of government in May 2011, there has been no cooperation from various departments of the state government with regards to the land acquisition, rehabilitation, resettlement of project affected families.
CHENNAI PORT’S ASSERTION IN COURT:
Besides NHAI, Chennai Port also contended in the Court that the 19-km Chennai Port-Maduravoyal Expressway is of great significance in view of the development of a various productivity enhancing projects in the port.
In a filing before the Madras High Court few months ago, Mr Sunilkumar Madabhavi, Chief Engineer, Chennai Port Trust, pleaded that the total traffic handled by Chennai Port for the last five years, 70 to 80 per cent cargo movement was by through road, of which 60 to 70 per cent road bound cargo was towards the south of the port (towards Maduravoyal due to its proximity to national highways).
The project was not only beneficial for development of Chennai Port but would also help local traffic to use the corridor continuously as there were entry and exit ramps into the corridor for local traffic to reach the Madras High Court, Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital and Central and Egmore railway stations and other major hospitals located en route the elevated road without passing through congested arterial roads inside the city, the port management contended in the affidavit.
CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT IN STATE:
The alignment was finalised after taking into account all aspects of geometry, optimum utilisation of Cooum boundary and minimum acquisition of private land. The project, along the Cooum River, was mainly designed based on the requirements of the State to suit not only the Port but also that general public.
However, after a change in the government in state in May 2011, there had been no cooperation from the various departments of the State government with regard to land acquisition, rehabilitation and re-settlement of the project-affected families for reasons best known to them.
The authorities concerned were not evincing any interest on this project and became averse to the same. By an order, the Public Works Department had urged the NHAI to obtain revised CRZ clearance and to carry out certain remedial measures such as drudging of 2 metres beyond the outer column and construction of retaining wall for a height of 3 to 5 metres in the extended portion.