Gadkari: My aim is 60,000 km highways in five years
Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, elaborated last week on his ministry’s achievements and his vision for the roads sector. “The country is targeting a fresh investment of about $1.4 trillion (Rs 111 trillion) in five years through the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP),” Gadkari said, adding that Rs 20 trillion has been allocated for the development of the roads sector.
The union minister was speaking as keynote speaker, virtually, at the recently concluded webinar under the InfraNirbhar series. The event, organised by Swarajya and Construction World on February 25, focused on ‘The Road to Prosperity: Vision for Highways and Expressways in India’.
Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, elaborated last week on his ministry’s achievements and his vision for the roads sector. “The country is targeting a fresh investment of about $1.4 trillion (Rs 111 trillion) in five years through the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP),” Gadkari said, adding that Rs 20 trillion has been allocated for the development of the roads sector. The union minister was speaking as keynote speaker, virtually, at the recently concluded webinar under the InfraNirbhar series. The event, organised by Swarajya and Construction World on February 25, focused on ‘The Road to Prosperity: Vision for Highways and Expressways in India’. In his live address to the panelists and viewers that comprised the construction fraternity, Gadkari elaborately laid out his achievements and vision for the roads sector. India has about 54.82 lakh km of road network, which is the second largest in the world in terms of length. National Highways constitute about 2% of the total road network but carry about 40% of the total road traffic in the country. The prime minister has set a vision for India to become a $5 trillion economy in the next five years.For the video of the keynote address and the discussions at the webinar, click here Here are the main points from Gadkari’s keynote address: 1.Good performance Despite the impact of Covid-19, the achievement in road construction from April 2020 till January 2021 is 8,745 km, which is higher than the 7,925 km achieved in the 10-month period of April 2019 till January 2020. Similarly, the target for project awards in 2021 is 10,000 km and the actual award in the current financial year (till January 2021) of 7,602 km is significantly higher than 3,509 km awarded in the previous financial year till January 2020. NHAI’s updated status as of February 2021: Construction—990 km and awards—8,192 km. The ministry has created a record by constructing 534 km of National Highway in the second week of January 2021 itself. I am hopeful that we will be able to cross the construction target of 11,000 km by the end of March. In the most recent update, we are at a 30 km per day. By March end this year, we will complete 40 km per day. This can be a great achievement for NHAI and the ministry. My aim is to construct over 60,000 km highways in the next five years at the rate of 40 km per day. 2.Source of funding The Finance Minister had proposed an enhanced outlay of Rs 1.18 trillion for MoRTH, of which, Rs 1.08 trillion is for strengthening and expanding road development. I am targeting an investment of Rs 25 trillion in the road development sector. There are no problems as far as the resources are concerned. The most important challenge for the NHAI and the ministry is land acquisition, utility shifting, and environment and forests clearance. Part of the funding will be from monetisation of existing assets. We have decided to award smaller packages—less than Rs 1,000 crore—as we are getting a good price, and at the same time, good response from Indian entrepreneurs and investors. 3.Bharatmala Pariyojana On road connectivity, significant work has been done under the Golden Quadrilateral Project, NHDP programme, Bharatmala Pariyojana, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and the Sagarmala project. Bharatmala Pariyojana for the highway sector was rolled out in 2017-18; National Highways of 34,800 km, including about 10,000 km of NHDP’s balance work, are to be constructed under phase-I from 2018 to 2122 in a phased manner at an estimated Rs 5,350 billion. This includes 5,000 km of the national corridors, 9,000 km of economic corridors, and 6,000 km of feeder corridors and inter-corridors, and 2,000 km of border roads, 2,000 km of coastal roads and port connectivity roads, and 800 km of greenfield expressways. Total 65,000 km is to be developed under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, connecting 550 districts with four lane highways. With development of 50 economic corridors, this will generate 14.2 crore man days of employment. 4. Cash flow management The model concession agreement for BOT toll projects have been amended to address investor concerns, which includes better project preparedness, revenue protection, and cash flow management. Similarly, for HAM projects, we have allowed for 100% equity disinvestment after the sixth month of construction and competition, and the interest rate has been linked to a more realistic market rate. Fast tag has been mandated at all toll plazas, and the average daily toll collection has increased by 50%. This facilitates seamless traffic movement. The government is also permitting 100% FDI in the road sector. There is an opportunity for JVs, and dispute resolution procedures have been streamlined to avoid litigations. 5. Land acquisition Digital portal Bhoomi Rashi has been adopted extensively to expedite and streamline the land acquisition process and 90% land has to be provided before the appointment date. 6. Multimodal logistics parks To reduce congestion on corridors, enhanced logistic efficiency and reduced logistic cost of freight moments, 35 locations have been identified for development of multimodal logistic parks. 7. National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) As a part of the NIP, 1,820 national highway projects are being taken up for the development by 2,425 with a length of 89,300 km at an estimated Rs 19.35 trillion. Of this, 86 projects of 4,414 km for an estimated Rs 300 billion have been completed and 1,059 projects of 44,090 km with an investment of Rs 6.70 trillion are in progress. Projects with the length of 14,000 km are planned to be developed by NHAI as a part of the NIP pipeline till 2025. 8. Materials and technologies in road construction We are promoting the use of new alternative materials in road construction. Cement and steel manufacturers are making cartels. They are exploiting the situation. In Maharashtra, we are constructing one bridge in Latur using steel fiber, which helps reduce the cost of bridge by 20-25%. We are promoting the use of new alternative materials in road construction such as fly-ash waste, plastic, and rubber. Bitumen companies have also been selling modified bitumen, which we need to take some action against. So now, I am planning to allow import of bitumen and create more competition in the field. The government authority shall not revise the contract price nor share the money benefits if new materials and technologies are used. While we are allowing the use of new technologies, contractors are not using it. Our independent engineers are responsible for this. We have decided to put together a project management consultancy (PMC), and projects worth more than Rs 2 billion will have to go in for PMC. Projects less than Rs 2 billion can opt for an independent engineer. But the independent engineer model is a complete failure. 9. Focus on safety My ministry has initiated the National Road Safety month and I will urge all stakeholders to sensibly work towards this mission. The detailed project report(DPR) makers are the main culprits for road accidents. Majority retired officers from the government have started their companies for preparing DPR and they are not offering good services. If we have to look at the number of road accidents and deaths, it is shameful for the country. We have decided to reduce the death and accident by 50% by 2025. The Tamil Nadu Government, with the cooperation of the World Bank, has reduced road accidents and death by 52%. I request states to follow the Tamil Nadu model. Also, there is no perfect marking on the road and I see signages with mistakes. I have decided to involve IIT engineering colleges in every district to ensure road safety audits. This will offer good experience to engineering college students and they will get some remuneration for their work as well. 10. Water shortage We are facing acute water problems. The Maharashtra government has issued a notification by which we are dredging rivers across the road free of cost. Already, in the state, we are making 170 road bridges with barrage. In the Buldhana district, about 28,000 wells have been recharged; where the district received only one hour of water from the well, it now gets water for 20-24 hours. Irrigation has increased, migration has stopped, and total socio-economic impact is good. The Buldhana pattern in Maharashtra is now accepted by NITI Aayog, and they are planning to make the policy on that basis. All states should focus on water conservation. 11. Focus on hilly areas Our government is working towards speeding construction of roads, bridges and tunnels in the hilly area. Leh Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, North Eastern states for defense strategies and from the tourism development point of view, road connectivity will bring about socio-economic development of 115 hospital districts, rural tribal and agriculture areas, with various clusters of handloom, textile, and toys. 12. Improving economic growth In addition to public highways being one of the most effective ways to eradicate poverty and for countries to improve economic growth, it is estimated that 1,240 people can be lifted out of poverty, with Rs 1 crore investments in highway infrastructure. Investment in highway infrastructure will also lead to growth in several allied sectors such as cement, steel and construction equipment. 13. Transformational change Stakeholders need to concentrate more on how we can reduce cost without compromising on quality. With complete cooperation from the industry, we will transform India. My dream is that within five years, India’s infrastructure should be of international standards such as the USA, UK, Germany and Japan. Atmanirbhar Bharat—our prime minister’s dream—will change the future of our country, making it the number one global economy in the world. Water, power, transport and communication are the four important areas for the country’s progress, and with infrastructure development, we will reduce the logistics cost, and compete on international standards with our cost-effective products. We will be more competitive to create more export opportunities for the country, and we need to ensure that the machinery we import today should eventually be ones that are Made in India. - Report by Shriyal Sethumadhavan