Road construction witnessed a near 60 per cent year-on-year jump in the first two months of financial year 2021-22 (FY22), despite restrictions being imposed in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19.
Around 1,470 km of roads were constructed during the first two months of the current fiscal, as against 847 km in the corresponding period last year, according to official figures.
However, these are provisional numbers as the state public works departments of Maharashtra and Goa are yet to provide data.
This increase comes in the backdrop of a similar rise over the course of the previous fiscal.
Total highway construction in FY21 was around 13,298 km, as against around 10,240 km in FY20.
Total length of roads awarded in April-May 2021 was 663 km, as against 747 km awarded in April-May 2020.
These projects are a mix of EPC (engineering-procurement-construction) contracts, hybrid-annuity and BOT (build-operate-transfer) contracts.
The pace of construction has seen a steady growth with 3,380 km constructed in FY19, but witnessed a decline in FY21 due to the nationwide lockdown.
The government has envisaged an ambitious highway development programme – Bharatmala Pariyojana – which includes development of about 65,000 km national highways.
Under Phase-I of the programme, the government has approved implementation of 34,800 km of national highways projects with a very stiff deadline of five years and an outlay of Rs 5.35 trillion.
Of this, NHAI has mandated development of about 27,500 km.
NHAI has taken a slew of measures to accelerate the pace of highway construction, which include reviving stalled projects, streamlining land acquisition, and acquiring a major portion of land before invitation bids.
Other measures were also introduced like awarding projects after adequate clearances, disposal of cases in respect of Change of Scope (CoS) and Extension of Time (EoT) in a time-bound manner, and close coordination with other ministries and state governments.
In addition, reviews at various levels and removal of bottlenecks in project execution was done apart from securitisation of road sector loans.
The disputes resolution mechanism was revamped to avoid delays in the completion of projects.
According to official estimates, the length of national highways has gone up by 50 per cent from 91,287 km (as of April 2014) to 137,625 km (as on March 20, 2021).
Total budgetary outlay increased by 5.5 times, from Rs 33,414 crore in FY15 to Rs 1.83 trillion for FY22.
Sanctioned amount increased by 126 per cent in FY21 over FY20 despite Covid-related disruption, the minister said, adding that the sanctioned length in km has also increased 9 per cent in FY21 over FY20.
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters