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The ambitious Rs 10 lakh crore umbrella programme for roads, Bharatmala, will subsume the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), implemented by the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998. This may be one of the last mega projects of the BJP government before it seeks public mandate in 2019, besides being the second-largest highway project after the NHDP that saw development of about 50,000 km of NHs as per global standards. The Prime Minister's Office, earlier this month, after going through a presentation of the ambitious Bharatmala project has asked for Public Investment Board's (PIB) clearance to the first phase of the project, a government official told PTI. The first phase will be carried out at an estimated investment of Rs 5.35 lakh crore for building 29,000 km of highways network that includes economic corridor schemes, coastal and other roads. "After viewing the presentation by the Road Transport and Highways Ministry, the PMO was of the view that a note should be floated for PIB approval," the official who did not wish to be named said. The Public Investment Board (PIB), chaired by expenditure secretary, comprises secretaries of economic affairs, the Niti Aayog, statistics and programme implementation, environment and forests as members, besides the secretary of the administrative ministry concerned. It also has joint secretary, expenditure, as member- secretary, and the PIB has a provision that its meetings will be attended in normal course by the nominated member personally and only in the most extraordinary circumstances, the next senior most officer could be nominated. "A blueprint of the Bharatmala project has already been finalised and detailed project reports (DPRs) are in the process of formation," the official said. Another official in the know said the Bharatmala project has been envisaged as an umbrella programme that will subsume unfinished parts of the NHDP and also focus on the new initiatives like creation of economic corridors, development of border and international connectivity roads, coastal and port connectivity roads and other corridors. The NHDP is being implemented in various phases and includes Golden Quadrilateral connecting four metropolises besides North-South Corridor connecting Srinagar to Kanyakumari and East-West Corridor joining Porbandar to Silchar. About 10,000 km of projects under NHDP are yet to be completed and most likely will be awarded by the end of the year. The official said deliberations are under way for financing of the projects under Bharatmala and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) could be delegated projects under engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) as the NHAI board has the autonomy. A Road Transport and Highways Ministry-appointed study under the proposed Bharatmala project by global consultancy firm AT Kearney has identified 44 economic corridors. The economic corridor project is aimed at faster movement of cargo and will be developing not only economic corridors with a length of about 21,000 km but 14,000 km of feeder routes. The corridors include Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Hyderabad-Panaji and Sambalpur-Ranchi, to name a few. Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has been stressing on the need for reducing logistics cost in the country from the current 18 per cent. Noting that high logistics cost has been one of the major bottlenecks in trade and business, the minister has been stressing on the need to develop innovative methods for transport.
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