After three months of lull due to monsoon rains, the pace of highway construction has gathered momentum in October. Compared to 362 km, 367 km and 315 km respectively in July, August and September, construction of these roads in October stood at 612 km or 20.4 km/day.
The pace, however, is still way lower than what is required to meet the construction target of 41 km/day set by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) for the current financial year.
Addressing the economic editors’ conference here on Thursday, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari however, expressed hope that the target could be achieved.
The ministry has targeted to build 15,000-km highways in the current fiscal. In 2015-16, India’s total highways construction was 6,061 km only. The minister said the current BJP government so far has constructed 14,594 km of highways.
In the first three months of the current fiscal, highway construction had been at relatively brisker pace, at 464 km, 711 km and 760 km, respectively. Construction activity generally remains high during the October-June period.
During the April-October period of the current fiscal, 3,591 km highways have been constructed at a rate of 17.1 km/day compared with 2,892 km or 13.77 km/day in the corresponding period last fiscal. Of the total construction till October, projects directly implemented by MoRTH was to the tune of 2,357 km, as against 1,845 km in the year-ago period. NHAI constructed 1,234 km in the first seven months of this fiscal, compared with 1,047 km in the corresponding period last fiscal.
On the award front also, the 25,000-km target for the current fiscal is unlikely to be met, as only 4,433 km of project awards were made during the April-October period.
In the first seven-month period of the last fiscal, MoRTH, NHAI and NHIDCL together awarded 5,012 km of highways. In the whole of last fiscal, India had awarded 10,098 km highway projects. Since assuming power, the BJP government has awarded 21,247-km projects for construction.
More than two-thirds of the projects (3,022 km) has been awarded through the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) model while the remaining through the BOT (annuity) model, sources said.
October saw award of just 464-km projects. In the previous month, awards had been the highest in the current year at 1,219 km.
Asked about the slow pace of awards, Gadkari said each project takes one to one-and-a-half years to award mainly because procedural delays in getting clearances. However, he said his department would be more “aggressive” in the coming days.
The government has taken several steps to address the private investment famine in the sector: It eased the exit policy for developers to enable them invest in new projects and introduced the hybrid model where the government bears 40% of the project cost.
Gadkari said the present dispensation plans to award projects worth R25 lakh crore for the highways and shipping sectors in five years and out of this, work has been awarded for projects worth R4 lakh crore — R3.17 lakh crore in highways and R80,000 crore for shipping — has already been awarded. The projected investment is bound to boost GDP and will create at least five crore jobs.