15 July : Considered to be the lifelines of hilly and rugged topography, the network of roads in Himachal Pradesh play a pivotal role as a major and dominant means of communication. In absence of other means of communication, the strong network of road has emerged as a leading mode of transportation. Thanks to the high priority which has been given by the State Government to the road connectivity in Himachal Pradesh.
Most of the 17,449 villages of the State are shattered over slopes of hill ranges and valleys making it a challenging task to connect them by motorable roads. Importance of roads in connecting production areas with the market centres and its role in ensuring that the benefits of development percolates down to the person living at the lowest ebb, cannot be overlooked. Thus, the State government is laying special emphasis on the construction of roads and bridges in the State.
Today the total road length in the State has crossed the 30,000 km mark. The Government is endeavouring to connect all the villages in the State by roads by the end of this year. In fact, a perspective plan is under way to provide all weather connectivity to all the villages having population of 250 in the State by 2012. Over 2768 kms new motorable roads have been constructed in the State during last one and a half year. Besides, cross drainage has been provided in 3647 kms and on 1504 kms of roads has been tarred and on 2167 kms of road annual surfacing completed. As many as 532 villages have been provided road connectivity from 1st January, 2008 to 30 June, 2009 in the State. Recently the landlocked Dodra Kawar area in the Shimla district was connected to the rest of the world by the commissioning of 61 kms Larot-Kawar road.
A sum of Rs. 1280 crore is being spent in the State during current financial year on construction of roads and bridges under various schemes. Out of which Rs. 479.60 crore was being spent under State head, Rs. 400 crore under Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojna / World Bank Projects, Rs. 400 crore on State road projects on upgradation and periodical renewal of the State highways and major district roads.
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, is another ambitious scheme to connect the small areas with roads. The scheme envisages to connect all the habitations having population of over 250 with all weather roads. Out of 2146 crore sanctioned under PMGSY, Rs. 1213 crore have already been spent on construction of the road and 2731 habitations have been
provided road connectivity. Bharat Nirman Scheme has been framed by the Union Government with a view to upgrade the existing roads and ensure time bound construction of new road projects. As many as 262 roads have been sanctioned under this scheme with a cost of Rs. 522 crore under the up-gradation component.
The NABARD is another agency which has been funding various road projects. NABARD has funded 621 road projects and 186 bridge projects have been sanctioned so far for the State. Out of these, 256 road projects and 128 bridge projects have been completed. This is evident form the fact that during 2008-09, Rs. 92 crore were spent and new projects worth of Rs. 151 crores were got approved. A target of obtaining sanction to new projects worth Rs. 300 crores has been fixed for the current year.
Apart from making journey in the State safe and speedy, the State Government is also endeavouring to make the State roads the commuter’s delight. For this, the State Government has introduced the concept of blooming highways. Under this scheme, tree and ornamental flower plantation is being carried out along side all major roads in the State. A target of planting about three lakh plants has been fixed for the current year.
Two new National Highways have been sanctioned of the State thus leading the total number of National Highways to nine. These are 91 Kms long Nagrota-Ranital-Dehra-Mubarkpur and 160.500 kms Paonta-Rajban-Shillai-Menaues-Hatkoti. The State Government has taken up the matter with the Government of India for sanctioning of three new National Highways having length of 287 kms. In an attempt to provide world class road connectivity to the State capital, four laning on NH-22 from Parwanoo to Chambaghat has been entrusted to NH A1.
In an attempt reduce the distances and journey time, the State Government has planned construction of tunnels in various places in the State. Four tunnels are proposed for the State capital. The approximate cost of construction of these tunnels in Shimla is Rs. 310 crore. This will not only shorten the distance but also help in environment conservation also.