Roads webinar reiterates speed, quality of construction

Roads webinar reiterates speed, quality of construction

At the Infra-Nirbhar roads webinar on Thursday, February 25, roads minister Nitin Gadkari reiterated the need for quality construction, from the DPR stage up to quality control. The webinar also featured a panel discussion. Here is a report....

At the Infra-Nirbhar roads webinar on Thursday, February 25, roads minister Nitin Gadkari reiterated the need for quality construction, from the DPR stage up to quality control. The webinar also featured a panel discussion. Here is a report. _______ The Infra-Nirbhar series, organised jointly by Construction World and Swarajya magazines, featured a roads webinar that included prominent speakers and panellists. The webinar, called “The Road to Prosperity: Vision for Highways and Expressways in India”, featured Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Roads Transport and Highways, Radheshyam Mopalwar, Vice Chairman and MD of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), Manoj Kumar, Member━Projects, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Awanish Kumar Awasthi, CEO, UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority), Bovin Kumar, COO, Cube Highways, and Hardik Agrawal, Director, Dineshchandra R. Agrawal Infracon Private Limited. Pratap Padode, Editor-in-Chief, Construction World, moderated the webinar. After Gadkari laid out grand plans for the roads in India over the next five years, reiterating that safety and design are linked, Mopalwar and Kumar explained specific projects and issues. A 700 km expressway. Describing the grand and much-awaited Samruddhi Mahamarg, Mopalwar explained how the expressway project is planned. Passing through 10 rural districts and connecting 14 more, the massive 700 km long expressway caters to two-thirds of the state’s population. The National Highways and State Highways Act has a provision for “betterment charges” that can be levied, since every new road brings new value to the adjoining lands. It has not been implemented so far. “We had discussed invoking this Act even when we planned the Mumbai-Pune expressway in 1998, but it did not materialise,” Mopalwar said. ”Now, this new, greenfield expressway throws open new opportunities. It will become a manufacturing corridor with 19 different locations for such activities.” Land acquisition has been a monumental task, and convincing people to give up large tracts of land summing up to 10,000 hectare has been the biggest challenge, Mopalwar revealed. As many as 350 communicators were appointed to accomplish the job of convincing through social interactions—they did so over a period of one year. Of the 700 km, 500 km would be inaugurated within the next three months, Mopalwar announced. Township planning has gone through seven stages, and five have been completed, including land acquisition and apportionment. A gas pipeline from Odisha to Mumbai will run along the Mahamarg. MSRDC has provided right-of-way to the pipeline, and is also planned to be commissioned simultaneously. A carpet of bitumen and concrete. Pratap Padode remarked that the Minister has laid out what he termed a “bitumen and concrete carpet for the country’s prosperity”, and called on the panellists to share their views. Design, safety and skill are the three pivots for the roads industry, according to Bovin Kumar, COO of Cube Highways, a Singapore-based highways investment company that has made significant buy-ins in India. Hardik Agarwal of the award-winning contractor Dineshchandra R Agrawal Infracon said, “The industry has geared up to meet the Minister’s guideline and maybe one day we will reach 50 km of road construction per day. We are very glad to gain such motivation.” Is there a need for a cement and steel regulator? Yes, industry practitioners said. Agarwal highlighted, “When there is an increase of 30-40% within a short period of two to three months, there is bound to be a negative burden on any construction project, government or private. Even the indices are not adjusted for the actual market inflation. It is time we had a star rate or a ceiling rate for these primary products.” How can the government improve the circumstances for contractors? A collaborative interaction is needed, Agarwal said. “We have started off on the right foot. The 40 km a day execution would be a result of the success of such a collaboration. Match between the industry and government leads to better efficiencies as well.” What are the issues that hinder a larger response to HAM’s for developers? Bovin Kumar said the preparation of project documents has many gaps. Because of a lack of clarity, there is an element of risk. In the past, stamp duty lacked clarity stemming from differential state rates. Several states do have clarity, but some don’t. Scope of work is often ambiguous—again, an example of poor preparation. For example, data gathered during the preparation can change greatly by the time a bid is called. Data collection should not be earlier than 2-3 months before. Manoj Kumar pointed out that webinars are good platforms of new ideas. “Our current road construction implementation of 30 km is not enough—we are working towards achieving 40 km per day,” he said. “It is challenging, but by the end of March, we will have a clear roadmap of how to resolve these issues. By June, there will be major changes in the way we operate.” “There are a few challenges today. Clearance of earthwork is a new challenge. Aggregates are a challenge because there are no clear guidelines. Things don’t go by the rulebook. Over the next two weeks, we will have consultants with contractors and other stakeholders. We have started a practice of incentivising by ranking states for their support to projects and honouring agreements,” the NHAI member said. “Although the first set of rankings was not made public, they were shown in a meeting at the Secretarial level. That exercise triggered quite a bit of movement and initiative.” The NHAI representative pointed to a first-of-its-kind incentive at the Budget level. “Innovatively, an amount of Rs 40,000 crore is kept unallocated in this year’s Budget. It will be awarded to the ministry that performs best. We have set our sights on that money. Greenfield projects are moving even faster than the brownfield projects, and that gives confidence to the political leadership.” Also read: Exclusive: Will form oversight committee from pvt sector, says Gadkari Also read: InfraNirbhar: Webinar series by CW and Swarajya

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