The pace of building highways has accelerated to 25 km a day in the first quarter of the current fiscal, as against 22.3 km per day in the entire 2016-17, keeping up with the gradual increase in highway construction in the initial two years of the Narendra Modi government. Sources said with several projects awarded in the last few years having reached the construction phase now and their “better monitoring” by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) and NHAI, the construction would outpace the last year’s average in the current year. The average construction in the first three months of the current fiscal at 25.14 km per day, is much higher than the 21.4 km a day clocked in the same period last fiscal. It, however, still falls short of the ministry’s ambitious 41 km a day target for the entire 2017-18 fiscal. MoRTH sources said a total of 2,263-km highways have been built in the first three months of this fiscal — 1,593 km by MoRTH and state PWDs and 670 km by NHAI. MoRTH had built 1,394 km and NHAI 540 km during the same period last year, taking the total to 1,934 km.
In the last fiscal, the Gadkari-led ministry kept the target for construction at 15,000 km, but only 8,142 km could be built, averaging at an all-time high pace of 22.3 km per day, though this was the highest till then. The target, however, has been kept at the same level for the current year. One of the focus areas of the Narendra Modi government, construction of highways figures prominently in its overall effort to multiply infrastructure investments. The pace of construction has been growing steadily since the NDA government assumed power in May 2014. Compared with 4,216-km highway construction in 2013-14, the number grew to 4,410 km in 2014-15, 6,061 km in 2016-17 and 8,142 km in 2017-18. The pace of project awards, however, was slower during the April-June period of the current fiscal, compared with the same period last fiscal.
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While MoRTH and NHAI awarded 903 km and 141 km highway roads for construction in the first three months of the current fiscal, the two agencies along with NHIDCL had cumulatively awarded 1,371 km in the same period last fiscal.
NHAI did not award any project in April this year and awarded just 3-km projects in May this year. Unlike in the past, MoRTH or NHAI do not award any highway project now unless 90% of the land is available.
Overall, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has done considerably better than its predecessor United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the road construction front. As against the average 5,002 km of highways built in the last three years of the UPA regime (15,005 km in all), highway construction in the first three years of the NDA regime went up to 6,234 km a year, marking a 24% jump.