2 Nov : Roads are the only means of communication in the predominantly hilly state like Himachal Pradesh. Although the geographical condition and topography of Himachal presents considerable challenge to the development of transport infrastructure, nevertheless, the state has made significant progress in road connectivity in the last few decades. Credit of this goes to the State Government which is according top most priority to this sector as the roads are the veins and arteries of development and help in ensuring percolation of development to the person sitting at the lowest ebb in remotest part of the State. Today, Himachal can boast of having highest road density among all the hill states of India, which as per the latest study is 53km. per 100sq. km.
The State Government is providing high priority to the development and maintenance of roads in the State, as roads are a very vital infrastructure for rapid economic growth of the State. The development of important sectors of economy such as Agriculture, Horticulture, Industries, Forestry etc. depends upon efficient road network.
In order to further strengthen road network in the State, Himachal Pradesh State Road Project has been implemented in the State. This Rs 1365.435 crore H.P. State Road Project, envisages upgradation of 435 km long state highways and major district roads besides periodic maintenance of 2000 km. of road length. The roads to be upgraded under this Project are 44.82 km Mehatpur-Una- Amb road; 106.19 km. Una-Barsar-Jahu-Bhambla- Kalkhar road; 80.68 km Theog-Kotkhai-Hatkoti-Rohru road; 41.95 km Sarkaghat-Ghumarwin road; 39.17 km. Ranital-Kotla road; 71.74 kms. Kumarhatti-Sarahan-Nahan road; 24 km Draman Sihunta roads and 26.80 km Bhawarana Lambagaon road. The up-gradation work of Theog-Hatkoti road have beeen awarded to a Chinese Company and this project would cost will cost Rs 228 crore and would be completed within the next three years. This road involves construction of 15 bridges, 280 culverts and 6.5 km high retaining walls, 5.5 km of covered foot path and 30 rain shelters.
This sector suffers from high unit cost for road development and maintenance is very high as compared to the other plain areas due to difficult terrains and remote locations. Thus the State Government has earmarked Rs 303 crore for the sector. Apart from this, an amount of Rs. 400 crore under Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana, Rs. 200 crore under NABARD and Rs. 110 crore are being spent under National Highways on construction of roads and bridges in the State. Out of the total 3243 Panchayats in the State, 2902 Panchayats stand connected with roads.
The over-riding priority of the State government is to connect the left out Panchayats by roads at the earliest. Work is in progress to connect 300 Panchayats by roads by the end of current financial year. All the villages with population of more than 500 persons would be connected by road by the end of the current financial year. However, the villages with population more than 250 persons will be connected by road by the year 2012. Recently, Killar-Chamba road was inaugurated thereby connecting the land-locked hinterland of Pangi with the district headquarters of Chamba.
With the persistent efforts of the State Government, the Union Government has sanctioned two more National Highways for the State. These are Nagrota Bagwan-Ranital-Mubarakpur and Paonta Sahib-Shillai-Hatkoti. With this the number of highways in the State has increased to eleven as already nine national highways (NH) pass through the state with a total length of 1235 km. This would not only help smooth plying of vehicles in the State but also give boost to tourism activities in the State. The State Government has proposed five new National Highway for the State, these are Ghumarwin-Sarkaghat-Baijnath road, Bharmour-Chamba-Dalhousie-Pathankot road, Hamirpur-Sujanpur-Palampur road, Slapper-Pandoh-Chailchowk-Karsog-Tatapani-Dhalli road and Kumarhatti-Sarahan-Nahan-Paonta-Dehradoon road.
In a bid to shorten distance and bring greater physical and emotional integration amongst different geographical regions, the State Government is committed to construct tunnels in different parts of the State. As many as four tunnels are purposed to be constructed in Shimla town to ensure smoother plying of vehicles in the State capital. Apart from this Consultancy studies have been awarded for the construction of few other tunnels which include tunnel at Swarghat Kainchi, a tunnel between Jubbal and Kotkhai and one tunnel at Ranital in Kangra district. After preparation of Detail Project Reports, these projects would be posed for external funding. This would not only shorten distance between different places but also help in conservation of environment.
The State Government has also reintroduced "Mukhya Mantri Gram Path Yojana" to accelerate road connectivity for villages. A provision of Rs 10 crore has been made for the current financial year. It would be ensured that the roads constructed under this scheme are of proper standard and alignment.