The Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari has said that highways works worth Rs 8 lakh crore will begin before the end of 2018 under the Bharatmala Pariyojana.
The government also approved the construction of 2,000 km of roads, along the eastern and western borders of the country to boost border roads and global connectivity.
There will be 9,000 km of economic corridors, inter-corridor and feeder routes (6,000 km), national corridors efficiency improvement (5,000 km), border roads and worldwide connectivity (2,000 km), coastal roads and port connectivity (2,000 km) and greenfield expressways (800 km) in the first phase. "We will have 50 economic corridors against the existing six", Road Transport and Highways Secretary Yudhvir Singh Malik told a press conference. Special attention has been paid to fulfil the connectivity needs of backward and tribal areas, areas of economic activity, places of religious and tourist interest, border areas, coastal areas and trade routes with neighbouring countries under the programme.
Mr Gadkari said that development of projects under the umbrella programme would generate substantive employment opportunities across the country. Bharatmala will integrate Bangladesh-Bhutan-Nepal and Myanmar-Thailand corridors to make a North-East hub of East Asia. With this, 70-80 per cent of freight will move along NH as against the 40 per cent at present.
Bharatmala will also have a positive impact on the Logistic Performance Index (LPI) of the country.
With this projects, India will have "world-class roads on par with the United States and Germany" and special emphasis has been accorded to providing quality roads on borders adjoining China and Pakistan, besides far-flung tribal areas.
"The quality of highways would be such that they would see no potholes for the next 100 years", he said.
Gadkari, however, admitted that land acquisition for this massive highway expansion program will be "tough and complicated".
The first phase includes 24,800 km of roads, including 9,000 of economic corridors, 2,000 km each of border and coastal roads, and 800 km of greenfield expressways, as well as 10,000 km of balance road works under the National Highway Development Programme, taking the total length of roads to 34,800 km at an estimated cost of Rs 5,35,000 crore. Bharatmala Phase I - is to be implemented over a five years period of 2017-18 to 2021-22.
Bharatmala project will be funded through market borrowings, central road funds, monetising government-owned road assets, and budgetary allocation.