The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been exceedingly ambitious with regard to its road development targets. The authority has set a target of awarding about 6,000 km of project length in the current fiscal year and is confident of awarding at least 4,500 km. Besides, the construction target for 2020-21 has been set at 4,000 km. For projects under the Bharatmala Pariyojana (Phase I), the authority expects to complete the award process by 2022-23, while construction work is slated for completion by 2024-25. At a recent conference organised by India Infrastructure, Manoj Kumar, member, projects, NHAI, discussed the benefits of greenfield corridors and the authority’s targets and achievements with regard to construction of these corridors and expressways. Excerpts…
Over time, NHAI has moved from a project-based approach under the National Highways Development Project to a corridor-based approach under the BharatmalaPariyojana, so as to ensure uniformity in highway construction and enhanced connectivity and logistical efficiency. The authority is aiming at large-scale development of greenfield corridors, access-controlled corridors and expressways across the country. This will not only fast-track project execution by mitigating land acquisition and clearance issues, but will also decongest highways by offering alternative routes for traffic diversion, as well as give an economic boost to backward, underconnected regions in the country.
Greenfield projects have a lower cost of land acquisition, fewer utility shifting issues and lower civil costs, as compared to brownfield projects. For example, the adoption of a greenfield alignment for the 1,320 km Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project has led to cost savings of about 7 per cent to NHAI. The authority has introduced the perpetual pavement design on the Delhi-Vadodara section of the expressway to ensure lower maintenance costs. Currently, construction work has started on about 50 per cent of the stretches of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, and is expected to commence on the balance stretches by the end of this year. The 1,262 km Amritsar-Jamnagar economic corridor is set to reduce the travel time between Amritsar and Jamnagar from 26 hours to about 16 hours. The use of a greenfield crow-flight alignment for the Sangaria-Santalpur section of the corridor will reduce the distance by almost 200 km and will lead to cost savings of about 11 per cent over the course of 20 years.
Progress on greenfield projects under Bharatmala
Under Phase I of the BharatmalaPariyojana, NHAI has planned the development of greenfield access-controlled corridors and expressways spanning a total length of about 6,000 km across the country, entailing a total investment of about Rs 3 trillion. The targets under Phase I include the construction of six greenfield expressways spanning a length of about 2,350 km and entailing an investment of Rs 1.43 trillion. Of these, while about 800 km of expressways have already been awarded, the balance are expected to be awarded by the second quarter of 2021-22. Phase I also includes the development of 15 access-controlled greenfield corridors spanning a length of about 3,650 km. The corridors will be constructed at an estimated investment of Rs 1.52 trillion. Of these, projects spanning about 950 km have already been awarded and the balance are targeted to be awarded by 2021-22. Besides, NHAI is also in the process of identifying corridors to be built under Phase II of the programme and expects to complete detailed project reports and land acquisition for the projects by 2023-24.
The way forward
Greenfield corridors are the future of highway development in the country. Owing to their immense benefits, NHAI is planning to incorporate greenfield access-controlled corridors in its portfolio of projects under Phase II of Bharatmala. Such corridors will lead to a reduction in logistics costs due to shorter alignments, apart from reduction in travel time due to higher vehicle speeds, and a reduction in the carbon footprint due to lower fuel consumption. Other benefits include enhanced safety and riding quality. Going forward, greenfield highway projects with superior technical and design specifications are expected to boost the demand for capital goods in the construction sector, owing to their superior technical and design specifications.
NHAI has been taking a number of initiatives to ensure high quality road construction and faster project implementation. It is also focusing on increasing the use of concrete in place of asphalt to improve the durability of roads. Besides, modern construction equipment is being deployed for reducing delays during the construction of highway projects. Efficient programme monitoring and review mechanisms have been put in place to ensure timely project award and construction. The process of land acquisition has been digitalised to minimise delays in project implementation. The authority is also engaged in efficient planning and target setting for different stages of project execution, from land acquisition to construction. Apart from this, due focus has been placed on timely resolution of project-related issues and bottlenecks through regular project monitoring. NHAI is working in close coordination with various state governments for expeditious land acquisition, approvals and clearances.