Union Minister Nitin Gadkari today said the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) should have more powers to fast-track road projects while expressing unhappiness over its overall performance. Gadkari said a proposal to enhance NHAI powers has already been sent to the Cabinet for approval. “We need to move on fast in NHAI. I am not happy with their targets,” the Road Transport and Highways Minister said at an event here. The decision in this regard has been taken to fast-track projects, he said, adding, “We have to strengthen the power of NHAI and the Board…Our proposal is pending and we are expecting that the Cabinet will enhance the power of the NHAI. That will be useful for road construction.” Stating that even states PWDs were faring better than NHAI, Gadkari said, “This is not done. I am expecting at least Rs 10,000-crore worth of road construction from the NHAI.
He further said that project delays were due to the “system” as there were so many committees to take decisions and eventually the projects suffer. “It is because of the system. Everywhere there are committees. You have to go to a particular committee for BOT (build-operate-transfer), then if there is no response then you have to go to another committee for EPC (engineering, procurement and construction),” he said. Enhancing the power of NHAI will help fast-track clearances to highway projects at a time when the government has fixed a target of building 40 kms of roads a day.
The move is aimed at empowering the NHAI board to clear all highway projects on its own instead of seeking clearances at various levels. The NHAI board at present proposes a highway project which is cleared by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) before Cabinet approval if the project amount is less than Rs 1,000 crore. For projects over Rs 1,000 crore, MoRTH forwards it to the Finance Ministry before Cabinet nod. The 11-member NHAI board consists of seven full-time members including the chairman besides four part-time members.
The country has an ambitious highways construction target of 40 km a day. The current rate of construction is about 22 km a day. The government had awarded 9,655 kms of highways construction until February out of a target of 25,000 kms. It has also raised its construction target to 15,000 kms as against 6,000 kms constructed last year. Out of this, 6,467-km highway projects constructed till February.
Rating agency ICRA has recently said that NHAI is likely to miss the target for awarding and execution of road projects by a “wide margin”. “Although the pace of execution increased by 17 per cent during the 8 months of FY2017 (April-November) to 5.82 km/day from 4.96 km/day, during 8 months of FY2016; it is just 27 per cent of target execution of 21.92 km/day. “Therefore, in terms of both award and execution, the NHAI is expected to miss the target by a wide margin,” the ratings agency has said. MoRTH planned to increase both awards and execution in FY2016-17 by 2.5 times from that of the FY2015-16 levels.
For NHAI, the targets are steep with a target execution of 8,000 km (21.92 km/day) and target awards at 15,000 kms. In August 2016, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had authorised the NHAI to monetise public funded National Highway projects which are operational and generating toll revenues for at least two years after the Commercial Operations Date through the Toll-Operate-Transfer (TOT) model. Seventy-five operational national highway projects totalling 4,376 kms completed under public funding have been preliminarily identified for potential monetisation, using the TOT model.