An efficient transport infrastructure is one of the biggest enablers for socio-economic growth of a country. It provides the essential linkage between resources centres of production and the market. It is also a key factor for promoting balanced regional growth by ensuring the delivery of goods and services to the remotest parts of the country. When our Government took over in 2014, infrastructure was clearly defined as one of our foremost priorities. Growth in India had long been hampered by the lack of good infrastructure. 0n the transport front, movement of goods and people was slow and inefficient, penetration of the transport network in remote areas was inadequate. The slow movement of traffic was leading to valuable loss of time and heavy pollution. Precious lives were being lost in rampant accidents. The extensive network of rivers with their tremendous navigational potential remained unutilized. We decided it was high time all this was rectified.

The Highways Revolution: A highways revolution is fast unfolding on the Indian landscape. National Highways are now being built at the rate of 27 kms per day as opposed to just 12 km per day in 2011. The Road Transport & Highways Ministry has awarded work for constructing 51073 km of National Highways in the last four years, which is double the 25158 km length awarded between 2010 2014 under the previous Government. We have constructed over 28531 km of NH as compared to 16505 between 2010 2014. This year we aim to construct nearly 16000 km of National Highways, which will be the highest ever India has constructed in a year.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi recently inaugurated two world class expressways in NCT Delhi the Eastern Peripheral Expressway and Phase I of Delhi Meerut Expressway. Many more such expressways are coming up in different parts of the country to reduce travel time for goods and people and bring down pollution. Bridges and tunnels are being built in many places to shorten distances, and bring the hitherto remote and inaccessible areas within easy reach. The Bhupen Hazarika Bridge over River Brahmaputra in Assam, the Chenani-Nashri Tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir and the Kota Bridge over Chambal are just a few examples. The Road Transport & Highways Ministry launched its ambitious programme Bharatmala last year. Bharatmala is going to be a game changer for the country.

The programme aims to enhance the efficiency of road transport by building 50 Economic Corridors, Feeder and Inter Corridors" Border, Coastal and Port Roads and Expressways .It will provide improved connectivity to areas of economic activity, places of religious and tourist interest, border areas, backward and tribal areas, coastal areas and trade routes with neighbouring countries. A total of around 66000 kms will be taken up under the programme, of which 24,800 kms are being taken up in Phase-l at a cost of Rs 5.35 lakh crore. Phase I will be completed by 2022.

Promoting Green Fuel: Another priority with us is to make the highways sector environment friendly. For this, we are promoting the use of clean fuels like ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, Bio-CNG, and electricity. Besides bringing down pollution, these fuels, produced indigenously from agricultural waste, plants like bamboo, non-edible oilseeds, or municipal waste, will help reduce the country’s huge import burden. Nagpur city is running buses on 100 percent bioethanol and Bio CNG derived from methane from sewage water. This can be replicated in other places too. This will also generate employment and boost the economy of rural areas, including the North East and the barren wastelands of the country.

Safety on Highways: India sadly has the highest number of road accident fatalities in the world. This is most unfortunate, and we are committed to bring this down by 50 per cent by 2020. 779 accident black spots have been identified across the country and are being rectified, safety features are being incorporated in road designs at DPR state and safety audit of roads are being carried out. We have notified improved vehicular safety standards and have unrolled a scheme for running driver training schools. We are running a scheme for setting up driver training schools in every district.

The Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha, and awaits passing by Rajya Sabha. The Bill addresses road safety issues by providing for stiffer penalties, making fitness certification of vehicles and issue of drivers licenses transparent by computerizing it, statutory provisions for protection of Good Samaritans and recognition of IT enabled enforcement system.

Ports as Engines of Growth: Our Government launched the Sagarmala programme, and declared 111 waterways as National Waterways in order to harness the potential of our seas and rivers. Sagarmala envisages industrializing ports areas so that they become engines of growth. There is a thrust on the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and 12 Coastal Economic Zones around Major Ports. In addition, there are projects for modernizing ports so that they become more efficient and profitable, enhancing connectivity of ports with the hinterland through road, rail and waterways and preparing the local population with necessary skills and infrastructure for the job opportunities that will open up.

Making Water Transport a Reality: Making our waterways navigable is another major priority for us. We have declared 111 waterways as National Waterways and are developing them for navigation. Water transport is cheaper than road and rail transport, and also less polluting. Transportation of goods over waterways will reduce logistics cost of our products, making them more competitive.

Work is already under implementation over 10 waterways including Ganga and Brahmaputra, Barak, Krishna, Mahanadi, Amba, Narmada etc. The World Bank aided, Rs 5369 crore Jal Marg Vikas project on Ganga is progressing at tremendous speed. One Multi Modal Terminal at Varanasi will be ready in by October this year and those at Sahibganj and Haldia and Navigational Lock at Farakka are also at advanced stages of construction. The project is expected to generate 46,000 direct and 84,000 indirect jobs.

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways: Green Initiatives Green Highways Division in NHAI: NHAI has set up a Green Highways Division and has planted over 2.5 Lakh trees planted last year in order to make National Highways green, clean and pollution free.

Linking of Construction of Highways with digging of Water Bodies in drought affected areas: Keeping in view that many parts of the country face drought conditions and restoration of ponds, check dams, water tanks offers an age-old system of water conservation/ ground water recharging, instructions have been issued by the Ministry to the agencies responsible for construction of National Highways to advise their contractors/ construction agencies through their field officers to approach the concerned District Collectors/ Sub-collectors/ Water Conservation Departments to obtain a list of any such villages/ rural areas where de-siltation/ revival of existing ponds/ water bodies or digging of areas for creation of new water bodies are required and procure the requisite soil for road embankments by digging/ de-silting the existing village ponds/ water bodies, subject to such soil being found suitable for the embankment purposes. This arrangement would help in restoration of such dried-up water bodies without any charge and the contractors will be able to source the requisite soil without any payment.

Bridge cum Barrage: The Ministry has sought proposals from state PWDs for making bridge-cum-barrage on NHs so as to serve the dual purpose of crossing the water body and storing water on the upstream/ downstream side to serve as water reservoirs] ground water recharging bodies. This will help better and optimum utilization of water for various purposes. Swachhta Pakhwada: Swachhta Pakhwada was observed from 16th to 315t July, 2017 under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), under which , the construction of toilets and provision of litter-bins at 371 NHAI Toll Plazas, and additional activities including provision of temporary toilets and drinking water facilities at toll plazas, cleaning of roads and drains, proper management of road construction sites, removing litter etc. was carried out.

Measures undertake combat vehicular pollution: Emission norms for Tractors and Construction Equipment vehicles have been notified for low Sulphur fuel, to be implemented from 01st October, 2020. The Electric vehicles are being given a big push by the Ministry. India's first multi modal Electric Vehicle passenger transport project was launched in Nagpur with integrated solution of buses, taxis and E-Rickshaws. The E-Rickshaws have emerged as a cost effective, environment friendly solution for improving last mile connectivity. These are exempted from
obtaining permits. To promote last mile connectivity for metro passengers, 1000 number of E-Rickshaws were launched at Gurugram, Haryana.

Bharatmala Pariyojana: A Stepping Stone Towards ‘New India’ The development of any nation depends on the transportation networks and the ways in which they are being maintained. The same holds true for the development of a huge and populous nation like India. For connecting the areas and maintaining smooth flow of traffic, the construction of new and developed roads are a must. The same will be achieved with the implementation of the Bharatmala project. Under the scheme, a host of new roads will be laid down in the nation.

Bharatmala Pariyojana is a new umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through effective interventions like development of Economic Corridors, Inter Corridors and Feeder Routes, National Corridor Efficiency Improvement, Border and International connectivity roads, Coastal and Port connectivity roads and Greenfield expressways. The implementation of a pan-nation scheme to improve the road network was the idea of the PM. All key aspects of the scheme will be managed by the Road Transport and Highways Ministry of the country.

Highlights of Bharatmala Pariyojana:

  • Improvement in efficiency of existing corridors through development of Multimodal Logistics Parks and elimination of choke point.

  • Enhance focus on improving connectivity in North East and leveraging synergies with Inland Waterways.

  • Emphasis on use of technology & scientific planning for Project Preparation and Asset Monitoring.

  • Delegation of powers to expedite project delivery Phase I to complete by 2022.

  • Improving connectivity in the North East.

Key Features:

  • Improving the quality of roads: The launch of the scheme has been done for bringing a new ‘wave of development in the nation in the form of well-maintained and developed roads. Under this; project, the construction of roads, in all parts of the nation will be undertaken.

  • Total road construction: As per the draft of the scheme, government and the ministry will strive to complete new roads, which will add up to a whopping 34, 800 kms.

  • Integrated scheme: The Bharatmala is the name that is given to the road development and it will include many other related schemes as well. With the completion of all the schemes, the overall success of the scheme will be guaranteed.

  • Total tenure of the program: The central government has the plans of finishing the scheme within a span of five years. Thus, all is set for finishing the first phase before the end of 2022.

  • Segmentation in phases: Due to the sheer magnitude and spread of the scheme, it will be divided into seven distinct phases. As of now, the first phase in under construction.

  • Construction on a daily basis: To finish the first phase in time, the respective
    department has made efforts of constructing at least 18 km of path on a daily basis. To beat the clock, continued efforts are being made to raise it to 30 km/day.

  • Different categories of road construction: It has been highlighted in the official draft of the scheme that to provide better connectivity, the construction of various categories of roads will be undertaken.

  • Multi-source of finding: One source will not be enough for funding a mammoth project. Thus, the government will have to depend on other sources for generating adequate money to meet the expenses.

Budget Allocation: A total of around 24,800 kms are being considered in Phase I of Bharatmala. In addition, Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase -I also includes 10,000 kms of balance road works under NHDP, taking the total to 34,800 kms at an estimated cost of Rs.S,35,000 crore. Bharatmala Phase is to be implemented over a five year period of i.e. 2017-18 to 2021-22.

Bharatmala Project Category:

  • Economic Corridor: As per the guidelines of the road construction project, the construction of 9000 kms of Economic Corridors will be undertaken by the central government.

  • Feeder Route or Inter Corridor: The total length of the roads, which fall under the Feeder Route or Inter Corridor category, is a whopping 6000 kms.

  • National Corridor Efficiency Improvement: 5000 kms of roads, constructed under the scheme will fall in the category of National Corridor for the better connection between roads.

  • Border Road and International Connectivity: Connecting the cities and remote areas, which are situated in the border regions, the project has kept provision for constructing 2000 kms roads that fall in the Border Road or International Connectivity category.

  • Port Connectivity and Coastal Road: To connect the areas that are dotted along the shorelines and important ports, the central government has ordered the construction of 2000 km of roads.

  • Green Field Expressway: The main stress will be given on the construction and development of Greenfield Expressway for better management of traffic and freight.

  • Balance NHDP Works: Under the last segment, the project will see a construction and maintenance of about 10,000 kms of new roads.

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Courtesy: Kurukshetra