Road Infrastructure in India: Enhancing Connectivity and Economic Growth

Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        
Samadhaan

Introduction 

India boasts the second-largest road network globally, covering a vast expanse of 5.89 million kilometres (kms). With road transportation serving as a vital artery for the movement of goods and passengers, it plays a pivotal role in the country's economic development. Over the years, India has witnessed significant growth in road mobility, supported by improved connectivity between cities, towns, and villages. 

Government initiatives driving road infrastructure development

  • National Infrastructure Pipeline: The government has allocated Rs. 111 lakh crores for FY 2019-25, with the roads sector projected to account for 18% of the capital expenditure during this period.
  • Public-Private Partnerships (PPP): India's well-developed framework for PPPs in the highway sector has been ranked first in operational maturity by the Asian Development Bank.
  • Bharat Mala Pariyojana: This ambitious project aims to construct 66,100 km of economic corridors, border and coastal roads, and expressways, bolstering the national highway network.
  • Growth Potential: The roads and highways market are projected to exhibit a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 36.16% during 2016-2025, showcasing promising opportunities for development.
  • PPP Projects: Roads accounted for almost 40% of the 1,824 PPP projects awarded in India until December 2019, emphasizing the significance of private sector involvement.
  • Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM): Over 60 HAM projects worth over $10 billion have balanced risk between private and public partners, encouraging PPP activity.
  • Digital Transformation: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has embraced digitalization with a cloud-based, AI-powered Big Data Analytics platform, streamlining project management and documentation processes.

Challenges 

  • Land Acquisition: The process of acquiring land for road projects is time-consuming and costly, accounting for 25-30% of project expenses
  • Project Delays: For instance Bharatmala Pariyojana's Phase I, crucial for coastal and port connectivity, has been postponed from 2021-22 to 2025-26, affecting project timelines.
  • Funding Challenges: MoRTH relies heavily on budgetary support and borrowings, lacking alternative revenue sources.
  • Private Sector Participation.
  • Remote Area Development: Construction projects in remote areas pose challenges in terms of equipment and raw material mobilization.

Way forward 

  • Increased Investment: Road sector development requires increased budgetary allocations, private sector participation, and alternative financing models like PPPs and TOT.
  • Focus on Road Maintenance: Prioritizing regular maintenance activities such as resurfacing, pothole filling, and drainage system upkeep ensures road longevity and enhances safety.
  • Streamlined Land Acquisition: Simplifying land acquisition processes, ensuring transparency, and providing fair compensation to landowners expedite projects and reduce costs.
  • Technological Advancements: Leveraging technology like sensors, intelligent transport systems, and smart road infrastructure optimizes road safety and traffic management.
  • Road Safety Promotion: Creating awareness, enforcing traffic laws, and implementing safety measures like speed limits, pedestrian crossings, and crash barriers contribute to reducing road accidents.
  • Institutional Capacity Building: Strengthening the capacity of government agencies involved in road development and maintenance enhances efficiency and effectiveness. Training and skill development, streamlined procedures, and adopting best practices from other countries are crucial in this regard.

Conclusion 

A robust road network plays a vital role in India's economic growth. The government's commitment to strengthening road infrastructure is commendable. However, efforts should focus on talent development and research in this sector. Improved roads will not only boost the economy but also reduce accidents and enhance travel efficiency. 

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