The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared the Bharatmala
project to construct 20,000 km of highways connecting western and eastern parts of the country at an estimated investment of Rs 7 lakh crore. In the first phase to be undertaken over three-five years, the project would cost Rs 5.5 lakh crore. The project would be funded through various sources, including Rs 2.09 lakh crore from the market, Rs 1.06 lakh crore through private investment and Rs 2.19 lakh crore from the central road fund or toll collection.
In the first phase of the Bharatmala
project, the central government plans to construct Rs 5.5 lakh crore worth of projects in the next three-five years, according to a road ministry official. The average cost of constructing 1 km of road is Rs 13 crore.
The roads that would be built under Bharatmala
will include state highways, national highways and some state roads across the country. “Every state will get proportional projects under the scheme,” the official added.
is the largest highways project after the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) which saw the development of about 50,000 km, and aims at improving connectivity in border and other areas.
The project that was first mooted in April 2015 aims to connect Gujarat and Rajasthan, then move to Punjab and cover Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and further to Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and right up to the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and Mizoram.
The aim is to improve the speed of traffic flow on key corridors by providing uniform four-lane roads between two identified points. According to Manish B Agarwal, partner and leader, Infrastructure, PwC India, the programme with its focus on economic corridors would help ensure that investment are focused on economic returns.
These corridors will permit faster movement of cargo vehicles. According to the government estimates, construction of 10,000 km of highways annually has the potential of generating 40 million man-days of employment.
Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, director and practice lead, transport and logistics, CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory, said, “The Bharatmala
programme would not only cover the economic corridors and provide last mile connectivity to the ports, it is also expected to give a huge impetus to the development of rural roads.” He said asset recycling of the toll assets of NHAI was being undertaken for the first time.
According to Padmanabhan, with the ironing out of the various impediments in the road sector, this initiative is expected to fast track the development of the roads and highways and provide opportunities to the private sector. “The implementation of this programme could get India the much needed cost competitiveness in the manufacturing sector by bringing down the logistics cost which is currently one of the highest amongst the emerging markets and way above that prevalent in the developed economies.”
The government would seek assistance of the Border Roads Organisation in tough terrain.
was proposed on the lines of Sagarmala in which a string of ports will be built in the Indian Ocean to protect maritime interests. The government plans to improve road connectivity, not just to coastal and border areas but also backward areas.