Saturday, October 23, 2021

Connecting India Through Road Infrastructure

Roads are an important lifeline for any nation. Equally important are transportation networks. The pace of growth of a country depends on the production of goods and services as well as their movement. For the progress of a huge and populous nation like India, construction of new and developed roads are crucial. Roads provide connectivity and ensure smooth traffic flow.

The development of road network infrastructure is among the major reforms initiated by the government in different sectors to make India “Aatmanirbhar” or self-reliant. Over the last few years, India’s road infrastructure has seen consistent improvement. Connectivity has improved and road transportation become a highpoint of rapid development. Roads are providing better access to services, ease of transportation and freedom of movement to people.

India has one of the largest road networks in the world, spanning around 5.5 million kilometres. It comprises national and state highways and urban and rural roads. The Indian road network comprises national and state highways, expressways, major district roads, and urban and rural roads. National highways account for 2 percent of the total road network and carry over 40 percent of total traffic.

India’s Bharatmala Pariyojana (Bharatmala Project) aims at building 66,100 km of economic corridors, border and coastal roads, and expressways to boost the highway network.  The project will also improve road connectivity for tourist destinations, construction of bypasses, development of ring roads and de-congestion of choke and congestion points.

The programme envisages four-lane connectivity to 550 districts, increasing the vehicular speed by 20 to 25 percent and reducing the supply chain costs by 5-6 percent. The first phase of the programme will bring in 82 billion US dollar investments by 2022 for developing 34,800 km of highways.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has accomplished construction of 3,979 km of national highways in the financial year 2019-20.  This is the highest-ever highway construction achieved in a financial year. 

Recognising the significance of a reliable and swift road network and the role it plays in influencing the country’s economic development, government is building quality roads and highways across India. The road infrastructure would be on par with international standards.                                                                     

The National Highways infrastructure will provide enhanced connectivity, quick mobility and accelerate socio-economic development.

Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari, inaugurated 26 highway projects and laid the foundation of 19 other projects in Madhya Pradesh on August 25. These projects carry a road length of 1,361 kilometres. These roads will provide improved links, and pave the way for economic growth, employment and overall development of Madhya Pradesh.

The central government, in partnership with the Madhya Pradesh government, proposes to build Chambal Expressway.  Once completed, it could be a game changer for the poor and tribals living in far-flung areas of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The expressway will provide cross-connectivity with the Golden Quadrilateral’s Delhi-Kolkata corridor, North-South Corridor, East-West Corridor and Delhi-Mumbai-Expressway. It will offer employment to people in these districts and adjoining areas.

The Golden Quadrilateral project, a network of highways connecting Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai, started by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is being given a new thrust.  The government is making the road infrastructure more comprehensive and integrated. It is being made complementary to each other– rail is being made complementary to the road, the road to the sea port and the sea port to the airport. 

These inter-linkages will ensure smooth coordination between the railways and the roadways, between the airport and the port, and between the railway station and the bus station. Emphasis is being laid on connectivity in every direction, be it at Himalayan peaks, or the islands of the Indian Ocean.

Along with these interlinks, India is also developing its coastline infrastructure. The focus will be on building a state-of-the-art infrastructure towards the construction of four-lane roads across the entire coastline, as coastlines have great importance in world trade. The NHAI has identified 1,500 km of road projects to boost coastal connectivity. The coastal infrastructure will also help strengthen national security.

Script: K V Venkatasubramanian, Senior Journalist

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