• Govt’s target of 25,000 km of highway projects may not be met in FY17

    Government may fall short of its target of awarding 25,000 km of highway projects in the current financial year as delays in project clearances impact growth in the sector. So far, a meagre 18% of the highway projects have been awarded during the current financial year as against the target of 25,000 km.

    “On an average project clearances takes about one and one-and-a-half year, this delays the award process, ” road minister Nitin Gadkari said at the Economic Editor’s Conference. Land acquisition, environment and forest clearance is required prior to award of a highway project.

    Road projects of 4,433 km have been awarded till October 2016 of which 3,591 km have been constructed. The construction target of roads for the current year is 15,000 km.

    Gadkari has announced Rs 2 lakh crore investment for constructing expressways in the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

    Of these, projects worth Rs 30,000 crore are already underway in UP. But officials said land acquisition cost may prove to be a real challenge because of the steep cost involved, Business Standard reported recently.

    Expressways, by definition, are greenfield projects and involve huge land acquisition cost. As much as Rs 10-12 crore per km of cost is incurred in the expansion of a highway from two-lane to four-lane. The number would be five to six times higher in a greenfield project like expressway.

    Estimates suggest land acquisitions costs constitute around 50 per cent of the total cost of the expressway project. On an average, an expressway is built at a width of 100-feet. The cost of land acquisition varies from state to state and can even differ at two locations in the same state, an official said.

    The Western Peripheral Expressway (Kundli-Manesar-Palwal) and the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (Kundli-Ghaziabad-Palwal) are among other projects delayed for over a decade. These are likely to be completed by December 2017.

    The projects would benefit Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, as they will open both the rural as well as the urban areas for developing commercial spaces and townships along the expressways, apart from generating revenue. The projects are also expected to improve air pollution levels in Delhi and decongest the national Capital.

    Another project is the New Delhi to Katra (Jammu & Kashmir) expressway, which would also reduce travel time to Amritsar by about two-and-a-half hours. The Delhi-Amritsar-Katra expressway would be executed on an alignment cutting across Jind in Haryana and connecting Amritsar via Barnala in Punjab. The project — that would come up at a cost of Rs 60,000 crore — would reduce the distance between Delhi and Katra by 110 km. The distance from Delhi to Katra via National Highway-1 is 729 km.

    In addition, the government has prepared a blueprint of expressways stretching across 18,000 km. But experts remain sceptical of the ambitious announcements made by the minister, mainly on account of land acquisition cost involved.

    At present, there are only a clutch of expressways in the country, including the Mumbai-Pune expressway, that was built at a cost of over Rs 1,600 crore and became fully operational in April 2002.

    In order to complete the proposed projects on time, the road construction pace has to be set at 30 km per day, as promised by Gadkari, after he took charge in May 2014. Johnny Unitas Jersey

    Share This