The collapse of a British-era bridge at Mahad in the west central Indian state of Maharashtra last month could have been avoided had land acquisition and green clearances for an alternative structure been secured in time, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday.
"If land acquisition and environmental clearances had come in time, a new bridge would already have been constructed (over river Savitri)," he said at the Lokmat Infra Conclave here.
The Union Road Transport Minister, who had owned up responsibility for the August 2 tragedy, rued people are dying on the Mumbai-Goa National Highway due to troubles with land acquisition, environmental clearances and shifting of encroachers.
"The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, is concerned about this, I am also very concerned. But what can we do?" he said.
Gadkari said his ministry has prepared a Rs.12,000 crore plan for four-laning the busy highway and announced that full concrete road will be completed by 2018.
As many as 26 people were killed when a part of the over a century-old bridge on Savitri river near the town of Mahad handling north-bound traffic collapsed last month.
At least two state transport buses and a multi-utility vehicle plunged into the river, which was swollen due to torrential rains.
Noting that there has been a four per cent rise in deaths on roads over the last two years, he said the government’s top priority is to bring down such accidents.
Having identified faults in road engineering as a major factor leading to accidents, Gadkari said a Rs.11,000 crore plan has been prepared to improve the roads at 786 specially identified spots across the country.
He said the government is targeting to reduce accidental deaths on roads by 50 per cent before its term comes to an end in May 2019.
The Lok Sabha MP from Nagpur said Maharashtra will receive special attention as part of the highway expansion and safety upgradation.