Saturday, October 22, 2011: 09:45:00 PM

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Highway construction still growing at snails pace

The target set by NHAI and the Road Transport Ministry seems a distant figure as current figures show construction at less than 9 km a day only

The highway construction target set by The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) of 20-km a day has still not been realised, with only 8.75 km a day being constructed in the current financial year. The authorities have managed to construct 1,314 km of highways in 2011-12 till August 31. Still being optimistic of the current pace it can be said that it is an improvement over the previous speed of 8 km a day in 2010-11.

 
The blame game starts with the construction activity getting hampered in the monsoon months, and snowballs to logistical issues. According to a senior ministry official, the rate at which construction has happened over the first 4 months propagates for a better pace in the months to come. The first 4 months also included the monsoons and in spite of that the pace has been more or less steady, say officials. “Due to stringent policies and a slowly growing economy the figure for highway constructions done each year has shown improvement annually,” said Dhananjay Sinha, a local area contractor working around the NH2 area.
 
Highway construction in the last financial year was 2,920 km, which was an improvement from 2,738 km in 2009-10. The targets set by the Road Transport Ministry and NHAI, however, look a bit far fetched when compared with the current figures. The highway construction target for the current year has been set at 3,570 km - 2,500 km for NHAI and 1,070 km for the Road Transport Ministry, out of which only 624 km has been completed by the Ministry and NHAI has been able to complete 690 km. In order to quicken the pace, NHAI has announced it will award 59 projects covering 7,994 km with a total cost of around Rs 60,000 crore. This is much less compared to the target of 96 projects covering 12,000 km worth Rs 100,000 crore for the last financial year.
 
Delays due to govt dynamics
 
Government dynamics are also important in this regard as the numbers show that after United Progressive alliance-II came to power and Kamal Nath was made the Road Transport minister, he had set a target to build 20 km a day, increasing it from the earlier 6 km a day in 2008-09. During his tenure, Mr Nath had come up with project plans for two financial years and had set a target of awarding a little over 200 projects worth Rs 200,000 crore. The award of road projects had gone down during the tenure of UPA-I and the economic slowdown and the ensuing liquidity crunch had affected the major turnkey companies. But TR Baalu's performance as the Road Transport minister is also under the scanner.
 
NHAI also plans to raise Rs 10,000 crore through tax-free infrastructure bonds from the market to fund their road construction plans. Raising funds is a part of NHAI's financial plan to raise Rs 63,000 crore in the next 20 years. Given the initiatives NHAI is taking, road transportation in India is set to improve in the coming years.   
 

Vijayendra Sesodia


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