Highway projects worth Rs 2.71 lakh crore hit by delays
National highway projects worth as much as Rs 2.71 lakh crore have run into delays because of reasons including holdups in land acquisition, inability to procure environmental clearances and disputes with contractors, illustrating the challenges impeding India’s attempt to fix its deficient infrastructure.
A total of 773 national highway projects spanning a length of 28,432 km are facing time overruns,according to data provided by the ministry of road transport and highways to Parliament on Thursday.
Maharashtra tops the list with Rs 59,401 crore worth of stuck projects, followed by Uttar Pradesh (Rs 27,176 crore), Bihar (Rs 18,071 crore) and Madhya Pradesh
(Rs 16,750 crore), the data showed.
Karnataka (Rs 12,921 crore), West Bengal (Rs 11,517 crore) , Andhra Pradesh (Rs 11,034 crore) , Chattisgargh (Rs 11,043 crore) and Rajasthan (Rs 11,022 crore) are among the other state with the highest amounts stuck in delayed highway projects. In Jammu and Kashmir, delayed highway projects span 224 km and are valued at Rs 8,003 crore.
“These projects are delayed mainly due to land acquisition, utility shifting, non-availability of soil/aggregate, poor performance of contractors, environment/forest/wildlife clearances, Road Over Bridge and Road Under Bridge issues with railways, public agitation for additional facilities, arbitration/contractual disputes with contractors etc,” minister for road transport Nitin Gadkari said in a written reply to a question in Parliament.
To speed up these projects, the ministry is trying to streamline the land acquisition and environment clearance processes, working in close coordination with other ministries, revamping the dispute resolution mechanism and holding frequent review meetings with project developers, state governments and contractors, he said.
“ Majority of the delays are on account of land acquisition related reasons. Firstly, the acquisition cost shot up significantly from Rs 0.80 crore per hectare in FY2013 to upwards of Rs 3.5 crore per hectare now due to compliance to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” said Rajeshwar Burla, vice-president of corporate ratings at the credit assessor ICRA,” said Rajeshwar Burla, vice-president of corporate ratings at the credit assessor ICRA.”The other issue in terms of procuring the land is some of the states is also with the compensation amount that has to be given by local authorities. In some case, political alignment is not there.”
The highways construction arm of the government is weighed down by debt of almost Rs 2 lakh crore primarily because of land acquisition costs and lack of financial closure for highway projects. Land costs make up 30-35 % of the total project cost.
In a separate reply to a question in Parliament, the transport ministry also informed, at present, 286 number of arbitration matters are going on with claim amounting to ~80, 993 core and counter claims amounting to Rs 43,321 crore.
HT in 2018 reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Rs 5.35 lakh crore Bharatmala Pariyojana, an umbrella project launched in 2017 and hailed as India’s biggest highways development plan, was facing delays at multiple implementation stages.
The project is aimed at bridging critical infrastructure gaps through the development of economic corridors, so-called inter-corridors and feeder routes, border and international connectivity roads, coastal and port connectivity roads and greenfield expressways.
A total of around 24,800 km are being considered for construction in Phase I of the project. In addition, it also includes 10,000 km of work remaining under the National Highways Development Project, an older initiative.
The average daily pace of construction of national highways was 25.23 km per day until December in the fiscal year 2019-20, and a length of ,6940 km had been constructed, according to government data.