More reports on: Government policies

Govt may shift to EPC route for road projects: minister

25 June 2014

The union ministry of road transport, highways and shipping is considering a proposal to undertake highway construction under EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) model in place of PPP (public private partnership).

Briefing journalists after reviewing the implementation of road projects in New Delhi on Tuesday, minister for road transport, highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari said that financing at low interest rates is also being explored for this new model.

He said over 260 projects involving about Rs60,000 crore that were taken up in PPP model are currently stalled because of various reasons.

This has also resulted in a large amount of non-performing assets (NPAs) for lending banks, he said.

The minister had been reviewing such stalled projects in various states over the last two days and he said solutions to such projects costing over Rs40,000 crore have been discussed and they are to be resolved now.

The minister said all problems in the infrastructure sector would be resolved now at monthly meetings to be attended by cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the prime minister and representatives of various ministries and departments, including those of the railways, defence, environment and forests, etc.

Gadkari proposes to convene such a meeting in about 10 days for which the agenda is being finalised to resolve issues that had come up during the two-day review meeting. He said a strategy of cooperation, coordination and communication will be adopted within the government to resolve all such problems to develop infrastructure.

He however said utmost importance would be given for ethics and environment besides the priority for economic progress.

Gadkari said road building works involving investment of about Rs20,000 crore will be undertaken in Ladakh and Leh regions of Jammu & Kashmir to promote tourism and strengthen the infrastructure. A tunnel alone is slated to cost Rs10,000 crore, he pointed out.

He also announced plans to set up a special corporation to undertake road projects in the North-eastern states of the country. In Uttarakhand works costing over Rs5,000 crore are due to be started, including those connecting important religious places. In Himachal Pradesh, separate one-way roads are proposed to be built as it would be difficult to widen existing roads in the hilly region.

He said as a special case, road contracts are proposed to be given for small stretches of 5 km each in the Maoist-affected areas of Chhattisgarh.

Gadkari said that after two years a target of building roads at a rate of 30 km per day will be set. He said currently it is even becoming difficult to build roads at a rate of 3 km per day.

Stating that bottlenecks, including problems relating to land acquisition, railway lines, environmental and forest department clearances and cash crunch faced by contractors are coming in the way of speedy completion of highway projects, he said, he hoped the state governments would cooperate in this endeavor of building roads and developing infrastructure in the country.

The minister said his ministry plans to take a decision in four months to adopt technology to re-plant all trees coming in the way of highway construction using a new system of uprooting the trees with huge machines and replanting them again. Gadkari said such a system was also adopted in Gujarat earlier upon a suggestion by prime minister Narendra Modi when he was the state chief minister.

Gadkari said he was not satisfied with the work being undertaken by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), adding that he had ordered a performance audit of the BRO to decide whether works should continue to be entrusted to the BRO or not.

The minister said that NHAI officials have been instructed to take immediate remedial measures at about 450 identified 'black spots' where large accidents have been taking place, to prevent loss of life.

In all, the minister reviewed over 55 projects covering over 15,000 km of road development over the two days.

 search domain-b