3:13 am - Wednesday December 19, 2018

Japan likely to fund 20-km Shiradi Ghat upgrade

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BANGALORE: Japan is most likely to fund a 20-km critical road project between Hassan and Dakshina Kannada districts — commonly called Shiradi Ghat stretch -to facilitate smooth movement of traffic to Mangalore port, the only primary port in Karnataka.

The project could cost about Rs 2,000 crore, or about Rs 100 crore for each kilometre of road construction. The 20-km bypass includes building of mountain tunnels and long-span bridges in the forest area. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which has funded a slew of infrastructure projects in Karnataka including the Bangalore Metro Rail, might well fund this project too. It has already taken up the technical feasibility study at the Shiradi Ghat region.

The NH-48 connects Bangalore with Mangalore through this stretch. Visitors to the port city are often advised by locals to avoid taking the road given its perennial poor condition, and the government has frequently come under attack from road users for its failure to fix the problem.

As a result, chief secretary Kaushik Mukherjee kept the Shiradi Ghat subject as an important item of discussion during his last month’s visit to Japan.

“I have been able to persuade the Japanese foreign minister, the government and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to fund this ambitious project that will also help cut the distance. The JICA team is currently conducting a study at the Ghat area, and it will be a big achievement on our part if we are able to open this section for traffic in five years after the construction work starts,” Mukherjee told ET.

The road is owned by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Karnataka is likely to pitch in with its share of funds.The project, if and when implemented, will operate on a toll basis.

The Japanese government is showing interest as funding the project would also mean promoting modern construction technologies developed by its own firms in India’s road sector, and helping its firms get big-ticket projects in India.

In Shiradi Ghat project, infrastructure conglomerate CTI Engineering International, expressway builder and operator Nexco, and global steel major Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation have been conducting the technical study for JICA. Karnataka is also trying to reason with the Japanese government that if the Shiradi road opens, it will help Japanese manufacturing companies in Karnataka to use the Mangalore port for their export needs.

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