ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Land Acquisition and National Highways

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has embarked on a grand project of four- and/or six-laning of the existing roads to a target of 14,000 km, especially the east-west and north-south corridors. This is a good thing because the country needs proper roads for its development and road construction provides employment. This aspect of development, nevertheless, is also harmful if not managed carefully, because road development requires the basic ingredient of land. People may be displaced or otherwise adversely affected due to land acquisition. The government has been acquiring additional land through the eminent domain power for the NHAI and other road development projects. The NHAI acquires land for road projects through the National Highways Act 1956, which is more draconian than the much analysed and criticised Land Acquisition Act 1894 (as amended in 1984).

The land acquisition matter gets complicated with senseless specifications. An NHAI circular in 2004 indicates that the right of way (ROW) should be 60 metres wide even in the built-up areas – which is a thoughtless specification. Obviously, the Indian road establishment likes the lateral growth of roads as in the US where land is available aplenty. What is missing here is the management aspect of the traffic volume that should take care of a relatively narrower corridor of impact and RoW. The social cost is ignored, and the consequent huge economic cost too is taken lightly in these administrative directives.

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