To overhaul infrastructure, government is lining up Rs 25 lakh crore for the highways and shipping sectors in 5 years, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday. “We are doing massive work in the infrastructure sector. There will be investment worth Rs 25 lakh crore in highways and shipping in 5 years,” Gadkari, who holds road transport, highways and shipping, said while addressing the Economic Editors Conference 2016. His estimate is the investment of Rs 25 lakh crore in the sector is bound to boost GDP by 3 per cent and this will also create at least 5 crore jobs. According to the minister, so far projects worth Rs 4 lakh crore have been awarded, including projects worth Rs 3.17 lakh crore in highways and Rs 80,000 crore in shipping. He backed up his claims saying the massive work has led to construction of 22 km of highways per day, whereas the ministry is striving to achieve 42 km a day target and is working hard in that direction. Highway construction target for 2016-17 is 15,000 km and “till October, we constructed 3,591 km”, he said. The minister said that the current BJP government so far has constructed 14,594 km of highways while it has awarded projects for construction of another 21,247 km.
The government is in the process of finalising project reports of 12 expressways soon and work on the same will start. Two key projects, Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways will be completed in the next seven months, the minister said. “Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has asked us to complete both these projects to decongest Delhi within 400 days and accordingly, the work is going on and we are hopeful to complete these in the next seven months,” Gadkari added. The government remains “committed” to increasing the length of National Highways to 2 lakh km. The length of National Highways has already been increased to 1.65 lakh km, from the earlier 96,000 km.
Also on the priority list of the government is improving the infrastructure in the North-East, and Rs 1 lakh crore investment has been pencilled in for the same. Asked about the delays in projects in Kerala, he pointed to land acquisition as a major hindrance but the situation has improved recently with a new government there. Turning to Tamil Nadu projects and the one involving elevated corridor of the Chennai Port, the minister said: “I may be a go-getter in India, but I am failing in exam in Tamil Nadu.” Gadkari said policy initiatives and other measures have resulted in unlocking Rs 3.8 lakh crore of stalled projects.
He expressed happiness that bankers and and private players interest in the road sector has revived. He is clear that there is no question of scrapping toll fees and people need to pay for the same if they want to avail better services. The minister sees immense potential of waterways in the country, including cruise tourism, and the government is working to give a push in this direction. The government has already approved conversion of 111 rivers across the country into waterways. “Work on 20 inland waterway projects will start soon,” the minister added. Emphasis is on port rail connectivity projects and works worth Rs 22,000 crore are being undertaken through Port Rail
Indian Port Rail Corporation (IPRCL), which has been set up to take up last-mile rail connectivity for ports, have taken up 25 works across 9 major ports. Of this, 4 have already been awarded and 9 more are in the pipeline for the remaining part of 2016-17. Out of the final list of 27 rail connectivity projects identified under Sagarmala, 21 for 3,300 km worth Rs 28,000 crore are being taken up by the Ministry of Railways and 6 worth Rs 3,590 crore are to be taken up either in Non-Government Rail (NGR) or JV model through IPRCL.
The ambitious Sagarmala project is under way, in which five coastal economic zones are being developed. The idea is to reduce logistics cost for exim and domestic trade with minimal infrastructure investment and Sagarmala aspires to reduce logistics costs leading to overall cost savings of Rs 35,000-40,000 crore per annum. As part of Sagarmala, more than 400 projects, at an estimated infrastructure investment of more than Rs 8 lakh crore, have been identified. Master plans have been finalised for the 12 major ports and based on the same, 142 port capacity expansion projects worth Rs 91,434 crore have been identified for implementation over the next 20 years.
“Out of this, 30 projects worth Rs 11,612 crore have been proposed for implementation starting 2016-17,” he said. In addition, 6 new port locations have been identified and will be developed – Vadhavan, Enayam, Sagar Island, Paradip Outer Harbour, Sirkazhi, and Belekeri.
Seventy-nine road connectivity projects have been identified under Sagarmala and will be taken up, including 18 projects under Bharatmala scheme. An Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) has also been formed to develop a strategy and implementation road map for coastal shipping of coal and other commodities and products, he said.