The Build-Up To Bharatmala
Road network in India comprising of national highways, state highways, expressways, district and village roads together spans across over 5 million kilometres. India ranks second in the global roadways numbers. The roadways infrastructure in India has been seeing a consistent improvement in the past few decades. The aim and vision behind this is to improve the connectivity and offer better accessibility to people, goods and transport.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) has taken up the responsibility and increased the pace of constructing highways and better quality roads across the country. In 2001, the Golden Quadrilateral Project was announced as a part of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) to connect India’s four top metropolitan cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
In a similar initiative, the Government of India approved the Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase–I project in October 2017. With an estimated budget of Rs. 5,35,000 crore, this project is expected to cover the corridors mentioned in the next section.
What Is The Bharatmala Pariyojana Project?
Bharatmala Pariyojana is a new program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country. The press release states, “Bharatmala is a new umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing efficiency of road traffic movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps.”
The Bharatmala project is an initiative from the Government of India led by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi whose focus is to build a “world-class network of expressways” throughout India. The project is centrally sponsored and funded by the Government of India.
This initiative focuses on building of corridors of road network to effectively improve the road network within the country. The total investment of the project is by far the largest investment for a government road construction scheme (as of December 2017). The 1st phase of the project is scheduled for a period of 5 years (from 2017-2022) and the phase 2 is expected to be done by 2024.
The scheme includes the development of the following corridors/road stretches –
Why Is Bharatmala Considered India’s Most Ambitious Road Infrastructure Project Till Date?
As a part of Bharatmala Phase-1, this mega roadways project aims to construct almost 35,000 kilometres of highway across India (24,800 kilometres as a part of the Bharatmala project and 10,000 kilometres of balance road works under the existing NHDP). The project also aims to interconnect about 550 district headquarters through a highway (at-least 4 lane), and take the bulk of freight traffic (almost 80%) on national highways.
What’s even better is that all uncompleted and existing road infrastructure initiatives including the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government in 1998 will become a part of this new initiative.
Key Features Of The Bharatmala Project (Phase–1)
As part of the project, a detailed commodity-wise survey of freight movement was performed across the 600 districts. The study included the commodities moving between each district and the top import and export commodities in every district.
Based on the studies, a “shortest route mapping” was identified for the 12,000 routes that had over 90% of freight traffic movement. About 20% of the routes were completely different from the current fastest routes.
Installation of automated traffic surveys at more than 1500+ points across the country. The usage of Automatic Traffic Counter and Classifier (ATCC) helps with accurate traffic surveys using the latest technology.
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With the help of Bhaskaracharya Institute For Space Applications and Geo-Informatics (BISAG), a detailed satellite mapping of the entire highway network across the country has been made to identify the areas that require upgradation from the existing infrastructure. For example, highways that have alternating 2-4 lanes and vice versa, narrow roads that can be extended to 2 lanes and so on.
As a result of these studies, a total of 44 Economic Corridors ranging ~26,200 kms which will connect the economically important cities, 66 Inter Corridor routes ranging ~8,400 kms that will connect the economic corridors, and 116 Feeder routes ranging ~7,600 kms for the first to last mile connectivity are identified as part of the Bharatmala Pariyojana project.
In Phase–2, the project aims to develop and improve on the following:
- Improvement of the existing corridors by developing Multimodal Logistics Parks (MMLP) and reducing the choke points. MMLP helps the logistics sector by lowering overall freight costs, reducing vehicular pollution and congestion, and cutting warehousing costs (Source: Wikipedia). This will help in de-congestion of the existing corridor network.
- Improved connectivity in the North East and leveraging the inland waterways for efficient transportation
- Using the latest technology such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and Ground Penetrating Radar, Network Survey Vehicle to ensure the pavement condition, Falling Weight Deflectometer to measure the pavement strength, Mobile Bridge Inspection Unit and Retro reflectometer for ensuring the effectiveness of road signages. (Source: MORTH)
Overall, the Bharatmala Pariyojana project will have a great impact on the logistics performance index and drive the economy of the country. This project is also expected to increase the employment rates and offer more than 22 Million permanent jobs (Source: IBEF)