The road transport and highways ministry has set a target of constructing 12,200 km of national highways (NHs) during 2022-23, against which 4,766 km has been constructed till November 2022, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said in the Lok Sabha. The overall length of all categories of national highways constructed during the financial year up to November is less than 5,118 km during the previous financial year for the same period. 

The minister said the Centre is monitoring progress and working with project implementing agencies, states, contractors or developers, to resolve issues and speed up construction. 

On the illegal encroachment along NHs leading to fatal accidents, Gadkari said there are instances of permanent and temporary encroachments within the right of way of on NHs. The NHAI officers have been sensitised about the importance of the removal of such encroachment for road safety.

He also answered queries on the Centre's guidelines on the construction of roads from waste plastic and other materials, saying the ministry has issued guidelines to use waste plastic and fly ash, iron and steel slag, construction and demolition waste, etc. in NH construction. It reduces construction cost, and preserve scant natural resources while promoting environmental sustainability, he said.

The length of NHs constructed using waste plastic is the highest in Karnataka at 440km, followed by UP at 422.50km, and Andhra Pradesh at 201.34 km. Gadkari said such roads are expected to last longer, and that their performance is under evaluation.

On the criteria adopted for upgradation of state highways into NHs, Gadkari said the decision is based on well-established principles. This involves upgrading roads running through the length or breadth of the country, connecting adjacent countries, having strategic requirements, arterial roads, roads in the backward areas and roads contributing towards the achievement of the NH grid of 100km. The state highways identified for upgradation into NHs under Bharatmala Pariyojana in Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Haryana have a total length of 723km, 1,363 km, 597km and 711km, respectively, the minister said.

“The ministry considers the declaration of some State roads, including SHs, as NHs from time to time based on the requirement of connectivity, inter-se priority and availability of funds.”

On projects running behind the schedule, the minister said 719 NH projects are behind schedule due to the protracted monsoon. He attributed above-average rainfall in some states, Covid-19, an increase in the price of raw materials (mainly steel) and issues in land acquisition, and statutory clearances, among others, as reasons for slow progress.

He said there is no such project that has been put on hold due to budgetary constraints. In some cases, where projects are delayed substantially have been either foreclosed or terminated on case to case basis and subsequently re-awarded as separate work, he said.  

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