Land acquisition delays road projects, raises cost

The wait for land acquisition has delayed several projects including the widening of the Chennai-Tiruvallur High (CTH) Road, phase II of the Rajiv Gandhi Salai, East Coast Road from Thiruvanmiyur to Akkarai and Tambaram Eastern Bypass.

The Revenue Department, which plays a major role in the proceedings, has been preoccupied or are understaffed. “We can only follow up with them. Even if special units are set up with a Tahsildar or DRO, they don’t have the required supporting staff,” an official in the Highways Department said.

For instance, in the case of the CTH Road, only recently the government issued a G.O. approving the setting up of two units for land acquisition. However, the officials have not been appointed yet. The project for widening the 22-km State Highway from Padi to Thiruninravur was announced in 2013.

“Initially, it was made into a four-lane facility at a cost of ₹98 crore. Then ₹168 crore was sanctioned to further widen it. However, now along with land acquisition, it is expected to cost ₹800 crore, since compensation cost has gone up due to the new Land Acquisition Act,” a retired engineer, formerly associated with the project, said.

Similarly, the cost of widening ECR from Thiruvanmiyur to Akkarai, estimated to be ₹255 crore in 2008, has now gone up to ₹780 crore.

The cost of widening the Rajiv Gandhi Salai Phase II from Siruseri to Mamallapuram, which was estimated at ₹70 crore when it was announced, rose to ₹290 crore and now it has touched ₹465 crore.

Verification of documents takes time since from the initial notification, the property could have changed hands or might have been pledged in the name of another person.

“Similarly, valuation is a problem after the new Land Acquisition Act. There are many interpretations for fixing the value since there are no proper guidelines as to the radius to be taken into account,” explained another official. “Those who register properties in most cases do not use the correct value since they would have to pay more for registration,” a realtor explained.

Another reason for delays in land acquisition proceedings is court cases. For a project in Velachery, the case of a small piece of land was heard by the Supreme court as the owners refused to part with it.

“Some parties file cases just to delay the projects. There are multiple cases even, further complicating matters,” an official said.

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