The pace of building highways picked up and touched 21.46 km a day in the April-January period of 2017-18 compared with 18.30 km per day in the same period last fiscal. But it still fell short of the 22.3-km-a-day target achieved in 2016-17 and remained far away from road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari’s ambitious target of building highways at a pace of 41 km a day.
Total construction, by all agencies responsible, stood at 6,439 km in the first 10 months of the current financial year, compared with 5,492 km in the corresponding period last year.
While the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has achieved a pace of 6.91 km a day, against the targeted 9.5 km, the ministry of road transport and highways’ performance remained short of target by a wider margin — it could construct just 13.48 km a day against the goal of 31 km.
NHAI chairman Deepak Kumar had recently 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 sees a pick-up in construction.
In all of 2016-17, highways 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 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 the government bears the 40% of the project cost.
Though the pace of construction has increased during the April-January period, awards have actually come down to 5,492 km from 8,032 km a year ago. Against the target of awarding 15,000-km highway projects for the current fiscal, the ministry of road transport and highways has awarded 2,876 km till January-end.
NHAI awarded 2,697 km and the remaining 223 km has been done by NHIDCL. In 2016-17, a total of 16,036 km highway length was awarded.
Against the yearly average of 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 in 2015-16, touching a record 22.5 km in the last fiscal.
Ministry sources said problems in land acquisition, delays in utility shifting and even non-availability of workers have been coming in the way of awarding the projects.
They, however, added that the construction would outpace the last year’s average in the current year with several projects awarded in the last few years having reached the construction phase now and their “better monitoring” by the ministry and the NHAI.