India welcomed its longest road tunnel last month when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Chenani-Nashri tunnel that links Kashmir with Jammu through an all-weather route. Built at Rs 3,700 crore, the 10-km tunnel (which includes a 1 km approach road on either side), bypassing snowbound upper reaches, will provide a safe route to commuters travelling from Jammu and Udhampur to Ramban, Banihal and Srinagar. 'We completed the project in five years and nine months,' says SC Mittal, Chief Executive, IL&FS Transportation Networks, the contractor for the project. 'Every day, there were around 2,000 labourers and 50 engineers working; it took us about 21.36 lakh man days.'
What's more, the tunnel, equipped with world-class security systems, is expected to boost economic activities in Jammu & Kashmir.
Sharing the factors that give an indirect boost to the economy, Mittal adds, 'The travel time between Jammu and Srinagar will reduce from the earlier two to two-and-a-half hours to about 10 minutes now. In the earlier 41 km, one had to take the winding road along the hills. However, the new tunnel is a 10-km straight stretch; as per NHAI estimates, this reduced distance can result in Rs 27 lakh of fuel saving for the country.' Further, unlike the 41-km highway, the new stretch will be open throughout the year and not shut down owing to snowfalls and hill slips.
The key features of the tunnel include a single-tube, bidirectional tunnel with a 9.35-m carriageway and a vertical clearance of 5 m.
There is also a parallel escape tunnel, with 'cross passages' connecting to the main tunnel at intervals of 300 m. It is further supported by an integrated traffic-control system; surveillance, ventilation and broadcast systems; fire-fighting system; and SOS call boxes at every 150 m.
- SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN
NITI Aayog to identify and support 10 big infrastructure projects in PPP mode
NITI Aayog will put together a listing of 10 mega infrastructure projects with the potential to be developed under the PPP mode. According to reports, the proposal to shortlist the 10 projects on a priority basis was discussed during a meeting with representatives from various states on March 7, with the aim to attract more investments, especially from foreign players. The list will consider details of projects provided by the states. Following this, the specific sectors where such projects can be pursued will be decided.
Praveen Mahto, Advisor, Project Appraisal and Management Division, and PPP Appraisal Unit, NITI Aayog, shares, 'We have engaged Ernst & Young as consultant to guide us on identifying these 10 projects, and we have requested the state governments to submit their proposals of projects.' He adds that with the last date of submitting the projects having lapsed, NITI Aayog has received 400-odd projects from various state governments. Now, the short-listing process has begun.
'In the second stage, we intend a feasibility study of the shortlisted projects; based on the best scope of success, we will choose 10 best projects and then handhold the state governments to the award stage or even final close stage,' he adds. The list is expected to be out in another two to three months. NITI Aayog's intervention in these big-ticket projects is expected to help streamline the process and ensure timely completion.
- SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN
Joint Action Committee (JAC) formed to oppose cement price hike by 60%
CREDAI in association with the Telangana Real Estate Developers' Association, Builders' Association of India, Telangana Builders' Federation and Telangana Developers' Association, have come together to form a JAC - represented by over 600 developers and more than 1,000 small, medium and mega contractors - to oppose the steep hike in cement prices by manufacturers with no increase in the prices of the raw material.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana contribute about 26 per cent of the total installed capacity in India. The annual consumption in both states is about 22-24 million tonne. This price hike will create extra burden on consumers with heightened costs and escalations and delays in construction and deliverability of housing projects.
'The housing sector accounts for a significant consumption of total cement demand,'says S Ram Reddy, President, CREDAI Hyderabad, and Chairman, JAC. 'We cannot be cornered by the cartel of cement manufacturers with a steep hike of about 60 per cent without any changes in input cost, demand or government taxes.'JAC is determined to to ensure the cartelisation is broken.