Opportunities and Challenges of Highway Projects in India

Dr. Nitin Jhanwar
Highway Projects in India

Current Scenario

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is responsible for the formulation of policies relating to regulation of road transport in the country, besides making/monitoring arrangements for vehicular traffic to and from the neighbouring countries. The Ministry is also responsible for evolving standards and specifications for roads and bridges in the country besides acting as a repository of technical information on roads and bridges.

In addition to MoRTH, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), an autonomous body, has been set up by Govt. of India through an Act of Parliament, which is responsible for development, maintenance and management of National Highways entrusted to it.

India has the second largest roads network (4.9 million km) in the world. India's road network consists of National Highways (NHs), State Highways (SHs), Major District Roads (MDRs), and Rural Roads (RRs), which also includes district roads and village roads. All roads other than NHs in the states fall within the jurisdiction of respective State Governments. The NHs constitutes 2 per cent of India's road network but handle nearly 40% of the total traffic. Roads remain the most important means of transport, accounting for around 85% of the passenger traffic and 60% of the freight traffic.

The Roads & Bridges Infrastructure Industry was worth $6.9 billion in 2009, which is estimated to be worth $19.2 billion by FY17. Until 2004-05, the road construction and maintenance market in India was dominated by the Public Sector, though, today, the private sector has emerged as a key player in the development of the road infrastructure. The road construction projects awarded to private companies recorded a CAGR of 17.1% over the period FY06-13.

Bharat Mala-the Umbrella addition
The road transport and highways ministry has prepared a draft Cabinet note on the Rs.2.6-lakh crore Bharat Mala project that envisages construction of 25,000 km of roads along India's borders, coastal areas, ports, religious and tourist places as well as over 100 district headquarters.

The note also proposes to bring under this project all of the ministry's road construction schemes including Setu Bharatam, Char Dham Connectivity and National Highways Development Programme. The ministry aims to complete the project by 2022. "After getting comments from the Prime Minister's Office and finance ministry, it will be an umbrella project now."

The government plans to construct over 50,000 km of roads over the next five years, which will extend the country's highway network to 1.5 lakh km. The government will fund most of the Bharat Mala project but some works under it can also be taken up in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode.

The government can also take soft loans from multilateral funding agencies to cover some part of the cost, the official said. Roads construction has been among the top priorities of the Narendra Modi-led government. It allocated Rs.42,000 crore for road and highway construction in the 2015-16 Budget. The finance minister has allocated Rs.97,000 crore for the 2016-17 fiscal which will open enormous opportunities in the sector roads.

The configuration of this road network under Bharat mala will be started as undivided two lane with paved shoulders.
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NBM&CW March 2016
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