Friday, 24 January 2014

Building not just Roads but Nation

Transport system is considered as the life line of any nation. Road Infrastructure, because of its easy accessibility, flexibility in operation, door to door service and reliability occupies a dominant position in the transportation system. It is vital for unleashing economic growth and is a critical component of all inclusive growth. In the last few decades,  Road transport in India has registered tremendous growth and has become the most preferred mode of transport. The share of road transport in carrying the passengers and goods is more than 80% and 60% of the total passenger and freight movement respectively.

Road Network
 India has huge network of roads totalling about 46.90 lakh km. The road density in India at present is nearly 1.43 km per sq. km of area which compares favourably with many countries. Responsibility of development of this network rests with the Central Government, State Governments and local Government. National Highways (NH), having total length of 82,803 km, constitutes less than 2% of the total road network. However, these are the main arteries carrying more than 40% of the total road traffic. Development of NHs is the responsibility of the Central Government.
Good and efficient transport infrastructure is an essential pre-requisite for the economic growth of a nation. It has been the endeavor of the Government to provide speedy, safe and efficient road transport network.  It is recognized that modernisation of infrastructure is the key to attain higher GDP.  India’s Transport sector as a whole contributes about 5.5% to the GDP, with road transport contributing the lion’s share.   India has emerged as one of the fastest growing economy in the world. According to experts, India could unleash its full potential, provided, it improves the infrastructure facilities, which are at present not sufficient to meet the growing demand of the economy.To address emerging demand by catching up with the economic and social growth of the country, a massive Road development programme has been taken up in the country.
 The National Highways Development Project (NHDP) is the flagship programme, for development of less developed areas, dedicated regional programmes like the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North-East (SARDP-NE) and the Special Programme for the Left Wing Extremism affected areas have also been taken up. Now, there are plans for building up Expressways in the Country. Three projects i.e.Eastern Peripheral Expressway in National Capital Region, Delhi  - Meerut Expressway and Mumbai – Vadodra Expressway covering about 650 km are targeted during the current financial year. Planning for Bengaluru – Chennai and Delhi – Jaipur Expressways are also in advance stages. All these Expressways will be fully access controlled roads on green field alignment.
            To meet with the massive requirement of funds, innovative means of financing and financing strategies which inter alia include cess on fuel,  private sector participation including foreign investment,  borrowing from the market as well as budgetary support have been adopted.  A major step was to attract foreign as well as domestic investments through Public Private Partnership (PPP). Involving the private sector would lead to increasing efficiency with the help of using modern technology. 

The private sector has more flexible procurement and decision-making procedures and therefore, it can speed up implementation efforts. Allowing private sector to raise capital/funds has paved the way for the Government to use its scarce resources efficiently and effectively. Several new materials of road construction are also emerging that would need to be encouraged depending upon their cost effectiveness.

For development of National Highways in the Country in the 12 five year plan targets to invest Rs 1,44,769 crores from budgetary support, Rs 64,834 crores from IEBR and Rs 1,87,995 crores from private sector participation.

Launched in 1998, the NHDP program represents the largest road construction project ever undertaken to boost the development of the National Highways in the country. The program is aimed at the development of about 50,000 km of National Highways.Golden Quadrilateral which provides four-lane connectivity between four metros, is complete, while the North-South-East-West (NSEW) corridor is about to be completed. Four laning and six laning is underway at many places and progressing at brisk pace, despite the hurdles in land acquisition, obtaining environment and forest clearances, high cost debt etc,. So far work on more than 21,000 km have been completed and in about 12,350 km works are in progress. Other flagship regional programmes which includes SARDP-NE  and roads in LWE affected areas covers development of about 12,000 km of roads out of which work has already been completed in about 3800 kms.
Mode of Projects
          The emphasis has been to take up progressively more and more infrastructure projects through private sector participation on BOT (Toll) basis so that more public funds are available for social sectors such as Health, Education, etc. However, it would not be practically possible to take up development of the majority of the highway stretches on BOT (Toll) mode. This has reflected in the recent trends of bidding when in majority of roads projects we could not get the favourable response. Accordingly, recently, Ministry has decided to take up road projects as turnkey Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contracts basis which would help to reduce construction time and is expected to improve quality of work as well.  Also, in this system the objective to garner private sector efficiency is retained and the private entrepreneurs are free to use new technology to speed up their works
New Initiatives
E-Tolling   The experience on present tolling system is associated with congestion and delays at toll plazas. To overcome this, Government has decided adoption of Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system across National Highways in India, which would enable toll to be collected electronically from vehicles at toll plazas while the vehicle is in motion. Pilot projects have already been taken up in this regard which will pave way for nation-wide interoperable ETC at all the toll plazas on National Highways by 2014.
New Materials Besides financing, such a mammoth development programme requires huge   amount of natural resources. As such conservation of the material is area of concern for all. There is a need to save scarce physical resource like aggregates, sand, earth, cement, bitumen, etc. looking to huge programme of construction of highways in the country. On the other hand, the Nation is facing problem of the disposal & storage of industrial waste like fly-ash, copper slag, marble slurry, etc.  Efforts are on in utilizing these waste materials in construction of roads through complete/partial replacement of conventional materials.  
Cashless Treatment of accident Victims (A Road Safety initiative) India has the dubious distinction of having maximum number of fatalities on roads. During the year 2011, there were around 5 lakh road accidents resulting in the deaths of over 1.42 lakh people. Each day, nearly 390 people die on our roads. In India more than half of road accident victims are in the age group 20-65 years. The loss of the main bread earner and head of household due to death or disability can be catastrophic, leading to lower living standards and poverty, in addition to the human cost of bereavement. 
This is an unacceptable price to pay for mobility.  The Ministry has already taken up multi-pronged strategy in his regard. The latest milestone in this area is a Pilot Project for “implementation of cashless medical treatment to the accident victims” for the first 48 hours. Under this scheme accident victims will be provided free treatment during this period as a result immediate relief can be provided to the accident victim, which will go a long way in reducing fatalities on our road.
Completion of programmes already taken up is expected to go a long way in contributing towards building the Nation.

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