An umbrella programme for roads – Bharatmala – will hit the ground soon ending all existing highway projects, including the flagship NHDP, in six months, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today. The ambitious highways development project subsuming all road projects in the first phase will see the construction of 20,000 km of highways. “National Highways Development Project (NHDP) and all existing schemes will be finished in the coming six months. We will launch Bharatmala very soon,” Gadkari, the Road Transport and Highways Minister, told PTI in an interview. Detailed project reports (DPRs) are in the process of preparation and the first phase of the Bharatmala project will see construction of 20,000 km of highways, he said.
Bharatmala is a mega plan of the government and the second-largest highways project after the NHDP that saw development of about 50,000 km.
NHDP, being implemented in various phases was initiated by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and includes Golden Quadrilateral connecting four metropolises besides North-South Corridor connecting Srinagar to Kanyakumari and East-West Corridor joining Porbandar to Silchar.
About 10,000 km of projects under NHDP are yet to be completed. “We will undertake massive road construction under the Bharatmala and lay a network of roads in border areas. We will connect all district headquarters with roads,” Gadkari said.
Special emphasis will be given on providing connectivity to far-flung rural areas including the tribal and backward areas, he added. The Prime Minister’s Office, earlier this month, after going through a presentation of the Bharatmala project has asked for Public Investment Board’s (PIB) clearance to the first phase of the project, a government official said. The total investment envisaged under Bharatmala has pegged at Rs 10 lakh crore, he added.
The first phase will see construction of about 20,000 km of highways network that includes economic corridor schemes, coastal and other roads.
After viewing the presentation by the Road Transport and Highways Ministry, the PMO was of the view that a note should be floated for PIB approval, the official said. PIB, chaired by the expenditure secretary, comprises secretaries of economic affairs, the Niti Aayog, statistics and programme implementation, environment and forests as members, besides the secretary of the administrative ministry concerned.
It also has joint secretary, expenditure, as member- secretary, and the PIB has a provision that its meetings will be attended in normal course by the nominated member personally and only in the most extraordinary circumstances, the next senior most officer could be nominated. Meanwhile, deliberations are under way for financing of the projects under Bharatmala and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) could be delegated projects under engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) as the NHAI board has the autonomy.
A Road Transport and Highways Ministry-appointed study under the proposed Bharatmala project by global consultancy firm AT Kearney has identified 44 economic corridors. The economic corridor project is aimed at faster movement of cargo and will be developing not only economic corridors with a length of about 21,000 km but 14,000 km of feeder routes.
The corridors include Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Hyderabad-Panaji and Sambalpur-Ranchi, to name a few. Gadkari has been stressing on the need for reducing logistics cost in the country from the current 18 per cent. Noting that high logistics cost has been one of the major bottlenecks in trade and business, the minister has been stressing on the need to develop innovative methods for transport.