An increasing emphasis on infrastructure has come with a promise of Rs 100-trillion commitment over the next five years. An essential feature of this would be putting to test the power sector’s One Nation, One Grid in highways, waterways, and city gas distribution sectors.
“To take connectivity infrastructure to the next level, we will build on the successful model in ensuring power connectivity — One Nation, One Grid — that has ensured power availability to states at affordable rates. I propose to make available a blueprint this year for developing gas grids, water grids, i-ways (information ways), and regional airports,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her over two-hour long maiden Budget speech.
The plan includes expanding the national gas grid. Currently, 16,788 km of natural gas pipeline is operational. Another 14,239 km is being developed to increase the availability of natural gas across the country.
According to the Budget proposals, the Union government will carry out a comprehensive restructuring of the national highways programme to ensure that the national highway grid of desirable length and capacity is created using a financeable model.
“Given the huge capital requirement for the infrastructure sector, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) can play a vital role in augmenting available capital for the sector.
A higher allocation would have provided more visibility to the NIIF for investments in the country’s infrastructure,” said Shubham Jain, group head & senior vice-president, corporate ratings at ICRA.
After completion of the first phase of the ongoing Bharatmala programme, the focus would shift towards developing the state road network. In its first phase, the Bharatmala project aims to construct 20,000 km of highways connecting the western and eastern parts of the country at an estimated investment of Rs 7 trillion.
Water grids essentially are aimed at connecting the various waterways in the country for seamless cargo movement. In March 2015, the Cabinet gave its approval to enact a legislation to declare 101 inland waterways as national waterways to create a logistic supply chain with intermodal (rail, road, and waterways) connectivity.
The new Metro rail projects for a total route length of 300 km have been approved during 2018-19. Also, in 2019, about 210 km of Metro lines have been operationalised. With this, 657 km of Metro rail network has become operational across the country.