Construction of highways gathered pace to touch 20.6 km per day during April-November this year, from 16.7 km a day in the year-ago period, though even the improved rate is a far cry from road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari’s target of building these roads at a scorching pace of 41km per day. Among them, all agencies responsible for highway construction constructed 4,942 km of roads in the first eight months of this financial year, compared with 4,017 km in the corresponding period last year. While the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has achieved a pace of 7 km a day, against the targeted 9.5 km, the ministry of road transport and highways’ performance has fallen short of target by a wider margin — it could construct just 13 km a day against the goal of 31 km. NHAI chairman Deepak Kumar told FE that the authority will likely exceed the target to build 3,500 km of highways in the current fiscal year. The latter half of a year usually see a pick-up in construction. “Our total expenditure will be more than Rs 90,000 crore in FY18, which is 85% higher than the level last fiscal. We have already borrowed Rs 27,000 crore from the market in the current year and are planning to borrow another Rs 22,000 crore in the remaining period of the year,” he said. In all of 2016-17, highways of were constructed at a pace of 22.5 km a day, while the target was, again, an ambitious 41 km a day.
While the ministry is largely implementing the projects via the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) route where the government bears all project cost, NHAI projects are increasingly being built through the hybrid annuity model (HAM), an improved public-private partnership model in which government bears the 40% of the project cost. Though the pace of construction has increased during the April-November period from 4,017 km to 4,942 km of the current fiscal, there is a general view among experts that the targets are unrealistic. Ministry officials say a pace of 30 km per day looks achievable in the present fiscal.
Though things have improved a lot in recent years, problems of land acquisition and utility shifting, non-availability of aggregates, poor performance of contractors and delay in clearances continue to adversely affect construction. Overall, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has done considerably better than its predecessor United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the road construction front. Against the yearly average 5,002 km of highways built in the last three years of the UPA regime, construction in the first three years of the NDA regime went up to 6,234 km per year, a 24% jump.
When the Narendra Modi government took over in May 2014, the construction rate stood at 11.67 km per day. Under the new regime, it grew to 12 km per day in 2014-15 and 16.6 km per day in 2015-16, touching a record 22.5 km per day in the last fiscal.