NEW DELHI: NDA Government is actively working on various ambitious programmes like Bharatmala and Sagarmala that will change the whole narrative of India's transport sector and will make it a world class infrastructure, Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Shri Nitin Gadkari said recently.
He said, “The progress of a Country is closely linked to the efficiency with which it transports its man and material. A good transport system aids economic growth by providing essential connectivity between available resources, centres of production and the market. It is also a vital factor in promoting balanced regional growth by ensuring the delivery of goods and services to the last man in the remotest part of the Country”.
“Despite having one of the most extensive transport networks in the world, India has, for long, been plagued by very slow and inefficient movement of passenger and freight. The sector is faced with many challenges. The penetration of the transport network in remote areas and difficult terrains is inadequate. Highways are narrow, congested, and poorly maintained, leading to slow movement of traffic, valuable loss of time and a heavy burden of pollution. A very high percentage of the freight moves on roads even though it has been established that this is the costliest mode of transport, with the highest pollution burden. Rail transport is cheaper and more environment-friendly than road transport, but the network is slow and inadequate, while the waterways which are the cheapest and most environment-friendly of the three are grossly underdeveloped.
The result of this unfavourable modal mix is high logistics costs that make our goods non-competitive in the international market.”
“This narrative has, however, started changing since the last three four years. The Government has made it a major priority to build a world class transport infrastructure in the Country, that is cost effective, easily accessible to everyone, safe, create a minimum load of pollutants and relies on indigenous inputs to the maximum possible extent. This has involved strengthening the available infrastructure by leveraging world class technology, building new infrastructure and modernizing the legislative framework to support this work. This has also involved partnering with the private sector and creating and nurturing an enabling environment for such partnership.”
“National highways constitute just two percent of the Country’s road network but carry 40 percent of the traffic load. The Government is working hard to augment this infrastructure both in terms of length and quality. Having started with about 96,000 km of national highways in 2014, we now have over 1.5 lakh kms and soon hope to reach 200,000 kms. The upcoming Bharatmala Programme will link border and international connectivity roads, develop economic corridors, inter corridors and feeder routes, improve connectivity of national corridors, build coastal and port connectivity roads, and greenfield expressways. This means that all areas of the Country will have easy access to national highways.”
“Looking at the cheaper and greener water transportation, efforts are underway to utilize the navigational potential of India’s 7500 km long coastline and over 14,000 km of inland waterways through the Sagarmala programme and by declaring 111 waterways as National Waterways. Sagarmala envisages developing ports as engines of growth. The idea is to industrialize the port areas by developing 14 coastal economic zones. This would be supported by modernization and augmentation of the port infrastructure, improving connectivity of ports with the hinterland through road, rail and waterways, and development of the coastal community. It is expected that besides saving Rs 35,000-Rs 40,000 crore as logistics cost annually, boosting exports by about $110 billion and generating one crore new jobs, Sagarmala will also double the share of domestic waterways in the modal mix in the next ten years.”
“In addition to the above, work is already in progress on several waterways including Ganga and Brahmaputra to develop their navigational potential. The World Bank aided Jal Marg Vikas project on Ganga aims to develop the river stretch from Haldia to Allahabad to allow navigation of 1500-2000 tonne ships. Work on building Multi Modal Terminals at Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia and other necessary infrastructure on this stretch is progressing rapidly. With this, much of the cargo movement to the Eastern and North Eastern parts of the Country can be done through waterways, resulting in lowering of the price of commodities. Thirty-seven more waterways will be developed in the next three years.”
“While the highways and waterways sectors are being modernized rapidly, work is also underway for developing an integrated transport system based on an optimal modal mix and seamless intermodal connectivity. In this context a Logistic Efficiency Enhancement Programme (LEEP) has been envisaged to enhance the efficiency of freight transportation in the country. This would include construction of fifty economic corridors, upgrading feeder routes, developing thirty-five Multi Modal Logistics parks with storage and warehousing facilities and constructing ten inter-modal stations to integrate various transportation modes.”