Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways

“Cooperation, coordination, and communication with all stakeholders is imperative to build infrastructure at par with world standards”

For an industrializing country like India, which aims to build a five trillion-dollar economy and become a major exporter, the development of transport infrastructure is essential to enable growth. Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Shri Nitin Gadkari, shares his views on the challenges faced by the transport sector and demonstrates how innovation in policy and technology can lead to improved delivery of projects that are built with sustainability and climate-consciousness in mind.

With regard to infrastructure and construction, what challenges do you envisage in making India a 5 trillion economy? What steps are you taking to mitigate the challenges?
In realizing the vision for a 5 trillion-dollar economy, infrastructure plays an essential part. The sector is important to stimulate investment and create a conducive atmosphere for industrial as well as economic development. This comes with a set of challenges. A significant issue is the cost of construction. We are trying to reduce the cost of construction without compromising on quality.

Another issue in the construction industry is the hazardous emissions leading to pollution and global warming. There is a need to reduce our dependence on petrol and diesel-run vehicles, including construction equipment. This is a major task given India’s dependence on conventional fuels.

We are always on the look-out for creative and futuristic solutions for today’s challenges. In order to bring down the cost of construction and reduce emissions, there is emphasis on the use of alternative fuels; use and reuse of waste materials; and we are also implementing new techniques, technologies, and innovations in both method & machinery.

Alternative fuels and the shift away from conventional fuels has become increasingly important, given India’s commitments at the COP26 climate summit last year. What are some of the steps taken by MoRTH in this regard?
Right now, diesel is the single largest fuel used in this sector. Unfortunately, it is the most significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 40% of India’s diesel consumption is in the construction, mining, shipping, railways, and agriculture sectors. The quantity of mining and construction related diesel demand is estimated at 4 billion liters, annually. Most of the use is attributed to construction vehicles and equipment.

We are working on fuels such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, bio CNG, and electrification to replace conventional fuels in the construction sector. In addition, we want to introduce flex-fuel engines. The flex-fuel engine technology enables users to run their vehicles on more than one fuel – like petrol or ethanol. In India, major automobile producers have plans to launch such vehicles. Using flex-fuel engines in construction equipment can help reduce cost and emissions at the same time.
Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways
Cost of construction can be reduced using disruptive technologies, waste materials, alternative fuel, and advanced equipment & machineries.

Other alternatives include electric, and LNG powered vehicles. LNG is a viable option which can also provide cost effective solutions for the industry. For instance, converting a diesel truck to an LNG truck requires 8 lakh rupees, which is money that can be recovered in 290 days given the cost difference between diesel and LNG.

Upon my suggestion, JCB created a hybrid model which can operate on diesel and CNG simultaneously. This application of alternative fuels has received good response from the industry.

Coordination amongst all stakeholders is imperative to improve product quality, drive innovation, reduce cost, and make the CE industry globally competitive.

You mentioned the conversion of waste materials to wealth as a means to reduce cost and pollution; how can this idea be incorporated in road construction?
The use of waste materials such as rubber from tires and plastics to construct roads has been demonstrated. Incorporating plastic and rubber in bitumen roads is also an option. This will also help reduce the cost of construction since the use of other materials like cement and steel will go down.

Several things treated as waste can actually be utilized to construct roads. A lot depends upon the appropriate technology. At the same time, we need appropriate leadership with a vision. Given the proven technologies like production of bitumen from biomass and their smaller impact on the ecology and environment, we want to formulate policies to encourage use of such innovations. In fact, this is a priority area.

MoRTH

Please tell us about some technical innovations and global best practices that are being actively pursued by MoRTH?
Developing skills, best practices, and technologies, while encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, are necessary for realizing the potential of the construction sector. For instance, lets take precast technique for road projects. In metro or flyover construction in India, the distance between the two piers is up to 30 meters. In Malaysia, by making precast beams from steel fibers, the strength has been improved, and has enabled distances of up to 120 meters between two piers. Such technology can be used in India as well.

We are encouraging the use of precast construction techniques and are planning to introduce an incentive model under which every other contractor could start using precast construction techniques.

Another innovative solution is to use fallow land for aggregate used in road construction and use this land to conserve water and replenish the depleting water table across the country. This can be beneficial for the contractor as well since it will reduce the cost of the aggregate and the cost of transporting it as well. Such ideas that further the conservation of resources are very welcome. We are also looking at the use of steel slag in road construction.
Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways
Adoption of global best practices will not only help the CE industry to reduce pollution, but will also enhance demand for construction equipment in foreign markets as well.

What are the strategies and initiatives to enable India to build transport infrastructure that can reduce logistics cost?
Our government has spent 50 lakh crores on road construction, shipping ports, waterways etc. We are currently making 26 industrial corridors, around 800 nodes, 600 districts connectivity by four-lane roads, 22 green express highways and so on. We are formulating a scheme called Setu Bharatam for state roads, municipal roads, ROB’s, RUB’s and plan to sanction 10,000 ROB’s and RUB’s in the country.

Our plan entails connectivity between Delhi to Dehradun in 2 hours; Delhi to Haridwar in 2 hours; Delhi to Chandigarh in 2 hours; Delhi to Jaipur in 2 hours; Delhi to Katra in 6 hours; Delhi to Amritsar in 4 hours; Delhi to Srinagar in 8 hours, Delhi to Mumbai in 12 hours; Chennai to Bangalore in 2 hours; Kanpur to Lucknow in 30 minutes; and Delhi to Meerut in 45 minutes. After two years, with the development of these green projects, the logistic cost will come down; and we will become more competitive in international markets, which will create more exports, more employment, and more wealth for the country.

Bringing down the logistic costs is important for India to be a competitive export market. Logistics cost in China hovers around 8-10% and stands at around 12% in Europe and in the United States. In India, the logistics cost is between 16-17% currently. This number is likely to see a fall in the next two years, reaching 8-10% with the development of green corridors, green expressways, industrial corridors, and other projects in the pipeline.
Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways
We will draw up biodiesel usage standards for the CE industry and accelerate creation of an enabling environment to facilitate operation of biodiesel compliant CEs in India.

What new policies has the Road & Highway Ministry formulated, and what has been their impact?
There are several policies aimed at streamlining processes, improving project deliveries, and the quality of projects. When I took charge of the ministry, we had 406 stalled projects worth 3,85,000 crores. To get these projects moving, we launched the Hybrid Annuity Model, where 40% of the cost came from the government and 60% from the contractor. We have restarted 95% of these stalled projects and terminated projects (costing 40,000 crore), as they were not found to be feasible anymore. We took the bankers, contractors, and our officers in confidence. And today I am proud to say that my ministry saved Indian bankers from NPAs worth 3 lakh crores, and the contractors are in a good position.

Another noteworthy change is regarding land acquisition and giving the appointed date. Today, without 90% land acquisition and without forest environment clearance, the appointed dates are not given. Earlier, the appointment date was given even with 10% land acquisition, due to which, contractors faced a lot of problems.

With such initiatives in place, we have already made 4 world records: 2.5-km four-lane road construction in 24 hours; laying 26-km single-lane bitumen road in 22 hours; and we are also the highest in the world for making 38 km of roads per day.

Another idea that I have is to go for annual Annuity. With BOT, we are making a lot of roads which is leading to diversification of traffic and making the contractor unsure about traffic density. To tackle this, we plan to go for annual Annuity instead of BOT. Now is the time to increase the pace of construction, expedite projects, and reduce cost while improving quality.

Strong political will, appropriate vision, transparency, a corruption-free system, and quality consciousness are important for building good infrastructure. I always stress on the fact that financial audit is important, but performance audit is more important.

MoRTH

What is the next major focus of the ministry?
Our next focus is on mass rapid transport which will be powered by electricity. We have already sanctioned some schemes in ropeways and cable cars for which we have around 46 proposals from Manipur, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Kashmir. We are also trying to develop electric highways. Our vision is to make the Delhi-Mumbai highway an electric highway.
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