By Ashraf Padanna / Kollam
Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday inaugurated a 13km highway bypassing Kerala’s Kollam city that was in limbo for many decades.
Addressing a jubilant crowd, he said infrastructure development had been the priority of his government, and the Kollam bypass is an example.
He said the project got final sanction in January 2015 and now it has seen the light of the day.
It will reduce travel time between Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram and decongest the traffic in Kollam city.
He said about 500km of the national highway had been added in Kerala since May 2014 and a detailed project report for the Mumbai-Kanyakumari corridor is under preparation.
The government is committed to ensuring timely completion of all projects, and he had reviewed more than 250 projects worth Rs1.2tn.
Highlighting the progress in road connectivity, he said the pace of construction in national highways and rural roads has almost doubled now.
Regional air connectivity and expansion of railway lines have also shown marked improvement, creating jobs.
“When we construct roads and bridges, we do not only connect towns and villages. We also connect aspirations with achievements, optimism with opportunities and hope with happiness,” he said.
He said tourism is the hallmark of Kerala’s economic development and a principal contributor its economy and recognising this, he had sanctioned seven projects worth Rs5.5bn.
Foreign tourist arrivals in India has increased by 42% in five years, and its annual growth is now double the global average.
The foreign exchange earned by India from tourism witnessed a 50% jump, up from $18bn in 2013 to $27bn in 2017. He described the introduction of the e-Visa as a game changer which is now available to 166 nationals.
Modi also addressed a rally of his Bharatiya Janata Party on the Peeranki Maidan kicking off its campaigning in Kerala for the national elections just three months away.
He also had a darshan at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram and inaugurated federally-funded infrastructure improvement projects for visitors.
The new bypass, revived in 2015 by chief minister Oommen Chandy with state’s participation after initial works that stalled 25 years back, will help motorists save a lot of time.
Another bypass revived during the same period in Alappuzha on the National Highway 66 is also fast completing, making navigation between Kochi and the state capital easier.
Constructed at the cost of Rs3.52bn, this highway has three major bridges over the picturesque Ashtamudi Lake.
The state government had earlier announced that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan would inaugurate the bypass. Modi reportedly upset its plans at the behest of his party’s state leaders.
The National Highway development, long overdue while its neighbours made huge strides in the area, was one of the two projects he wanted Vijayan to expedite along with a gas pipeline to evacuate LNG bought from Qatar’s RasGas and stored here five years ago.
Kerala had 1,782km of National Highways till May 2018 and length has now gone up to more than 2,280km.
Works on bypasses in Thiruvananthapuram and Thalassery-Mahe are also going on, providing chances of further fillip to trade and hospitality industry.
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