The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is planning to acquire 10,000 hectares (ha) in 2015-16, up from 6,733 ha a year ago, to speed up road laying in the country.
If it manages to do this, the NHAI would have acquired more land than it has in either of the two previous financial years, over which time the average cost of land rose from Rs 90 lakh a ha in 2013-14 to Rs 1.35 crore a ha in 2014-15. Between April and August 2015, the authority has acquired 4,272 ha.
"Our project reports became outdated, as land was not acquired. Now, we have to re-bid and redo the reports to speed up construction," Raghav Chandra, chairman, NHAI, told Business Standard.
The NHAI has awarded 2,340 km of highway projects so far in 2015-16, up from 1,100 km during the corresponding period a year ago. It is planning to award 5,000 km of highway projects in 2015-16 against 3,068 km awarded in 2014-15.
The acquisition cost for land notified after January 2015 will climb as compensation for national highways will have to be paid in line with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The 2013 law states compensation should be between two and two-and-a-half times the market value of land, depending on the state. Additional compensation has to be paid to affected families for rehabilitation and resettlement.
The authority has strengthened its land acquisition division and assigned teams to nudge state governments to deliver land faster. Acquiring land for highways is the state governments' responsibility.
"Kerala, for instance, had promised quicker acquisition but has not delivered. So we have not been able to construct on NH 17 and NH 47," Chandra said. According to the NHAI framework, a four-lane highway needs 60 metres right of way, but the Kerala government said it could not acquire all of it.
"Land acquisition was slow in West Bengal too, but after discussions between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Union Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, things have improved," Chandra added.