India's Biggest Ever Highway Development Plan Worth Rs 7 Lakh Crore Approved

Centre's plan to add 83,000 km roads by 2022 may see approval of 7 lakh crore highway development project

A day after the Union Cabinet approved a mega package of highway projects including the ambitious Bharatmala, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said the most of works in those projects worth around Rs 7 lakh crore would be awarded by December 2018.

Shares of infrastructure companies surged up to 10 per cent today on announcement of a massive Rs 6.92 lakh crore road building programme.

"Bharatmala is the new umbrella programme for the highways sector that focuses on optimising efficiency of road traffic movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps".

This in turn would help reduce India's supply chain cost to 6% from the present levels of 18%, said Gadkari, who heads the ministry for road transport, highways and shipping, and water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation.

"Bharatmala will give the country 50 national corridors, compared with six at present".

Analysts said the push to road infrastructure would have a ripple effect on construction and job creation.

He stressed that funding is not a problem for the entire project as funds to the tune of Rs 4-5 lakh crore can be raised from the capital market and the finance ministry has been approached for enhanced support. The government plans to improve road connectivity not just to coastal and border areas but also backward areas.

Gadkari said the work on project preparation was in an advanced stage for 19,500 km and about 9,000 km bids were invited for engagement of consultant for preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) and total 550 districts would be connected with NH under the project.

Noting that Bharatmala is the "biggest ever programme approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in its history", Gadkari said it will enable the country to bridge the "highway sector infra deficit" by 2022.

As Bharatmala will require over Rs 5 lakh crore, the government has various fundraising plans under its sleeve.

The government aims to build 10,000 km of roads annually under this highway development programme, and expects the construction and related activities to create 14 crore mandays of jobs.

Around 2,100 km coastal roads and 2,000 km port connectivity roads as also 1,900 km stretches of greenfield expressways have also been identified under the project.

"Bharatmala programme includes development of 44 Economic Corridors, 66 Inter Corridor Routes and 16 Feeder Routes".

The government will fund Bharatmala project through market borrowings, central road funds, monetising government-owned road assets, and budgetary allocationBharatmala project through market borrowings, central road funds, monetising government-owned road assets, and budgetary allocation.

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