The country's highway construction seems to have progressed unhindered even in the face of a pandemic that brought the global economy to a grinding halt and is likely to chip off at least 8 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this fiscal. However, in a contrarian show of sorts, the ministry of road transport and highways has constructed or widened 9,450 km of national highways till date in the current financial year, which is 20 percent higher compared with 7,925 km in 2019-20.
The government is constructing highways at a pace of 30 km per day in the current fiscal against an average daily construction of 21.71 km in the previous financial year, despite the disruptions caused due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Going ahead, this year's highway construction may surpass the record achievement of 10,855 km of construction in 2018-19, when the ministry logged an average daily construction of 29.73 km.
According to data from the ministry of road and highways, 4,410 km of national highways were constructed in 2014-15, 6,061 km in 2015-16, 8,231 km in 2016-17 and 9,829 km in 2017-18. It may be noted that the highway construction gathered a lot of momentum in January this year. 534 km of highways were constructed between January 8 and January 15 logging an average of 76 km per day.
Highway construction came to a grinding halt in the wake of lockdown in the month of April last year when only 210 km was constructed against 792 km in April 2019. In the entire H1 of the current financial year, the construction remained abated in comparison with the same period in 2019-20. According to the ministry data, highway construction in the H1 of the current financial year stood at 12,810 km, compared with 15,932 km that were constructed in the same period of the previous financial year.
The pace, however, picked up from December onwards when the monthly rate at 7,767 km surpassed the December 2019 highway construction of 6,940 km. The trend continued in the month of January too.
Highway contract award has also been noteworthy in the current financial year. Contracts for construction of 7,696 km of highway have been awarded to date in the current financial year creating a pipeline for future construction. This is more than double the 3,509 km of highway contracts awarded in FY20.
In the Budget, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman provided capital allocation of Rs 1,08,230 crore to the ministry of road transport and highways for 2022 against an allocation of Rs 81,975 crore in the current financial year.
Also read: No minimum balance in FASTag now