Shortage of river sand hits elevated corridor work on Chennai-Bengaluru National Highway in Ambur

A view of the elevated corridor on the Chennai-Bengaluru Highway (NH 44) near Ambur in Tirupattur district.

For more than a month, work on the elevated corridor along the Chennai-Bengaluru Highway (NH 44) near Ambur in Tirupattur has been temporarily stopped by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which executes the project along with L&T, due to non-supply of river sand from government quarry at Kandaneri village near Pallikonda toll plaza in Vellore along the Palar.

District officials attributed the non-supply of river sand to the elevated corridor work, a Union government project, to the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on quarries in the State since September 12. “After we took the issue to Vellore Collector P. Kumaravel Pandian, as the quarry comes within Vellore limits, nearly a fortnight ago, river sand from the quarry was supplied just for two days with 300 units of sand a day as against the requirement of 1,000 units a day for the work,” said a source.

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Since then, supply of river sand from the quarry has been stopped. As a result, more than 100 contract workers, mostly from north Indian States, were given other tasks like centering work for concrete pillars of the corridor work.

As per norms, only river sand should be used for any superstructure work, which is above three metres from the ground level, for projects that are undertaken by the NHAI, mainly for its durability. Accordingly, centering work for the three pillars (spans) for the elevated corridor work in Ambur was ready for more than a month. Each pillar is 25 metres tall. However, due to non-supply of river sand, work to lay cement concrete mixture in the pillars have been stopped.

Sources said that non-supply of river sand for the government projects will result in cost escalation. As the northeast monsoon has set in, work on building the concrete pillars will get delayed. In fact, the only superstructure work has been taken up on the elevated corridor on the 146-km stretch between Walajah Road and Krishnagiri on the highway by the NHAI.

At present, over 40% of the total work has been completed. The stretch would be converted into six lanes to reduce the total travel time on the route. The work is expected to be completed by May 2024. “I have asked the Department of Mines to assess the actual river sand required for the work. As it involves various departments, a decision on it will be taken on October 25,” the Vellore Collector told The Hindu.

Sanctioned in 2011, the 1.45-km elevated corridor is being built at a cost of ₹135 crore between the Rajiv Gandhi statue and the ORR Cinema in Ambur. The new corridor will be 11 metres wide (main carriageway) with a median. Service roads, each 8-metre wide, will be built to facilitate movement of two-wheelers, autorickshaws and cars. Storm-water drains, high-mast lamps, LED streetlights, reflectors and warning signboards are among the other features that will come up on the corridor. More than 75,000 vehicles, mainly trucks and container lorries, use the stretch to reach Chennai or Bengaluru every day.

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