Bharatmala project – the ambitious ₹5,35,000 crore plan kick-started in October 2017 to build a national highway network of 34,800 kilometres (kms) by December 2022 – seems to have hit a slow lane. Even though the project is in its terminal year, only 8,134 kms of project length has been constructed till now, which is less than 25% of the targeted construction.

Bharatmala envisages completion of 65,000 kilometres of highways in two phases. It is an umbrella highway development plan in the country having several corridors under its fold including economic corridor, expressways, inter-corridors and feeder roads, among others.

The phase one of the Bharatmala project for construction of 34,800 kms was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in October 2017 to be completed in the five years at a capital cost of ₹5,35,000 crore.

Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha on the status of the Bharatmala, transport minister Nitin Gadkari today said 8,134 km of project length has been constructed till now. This essentially means that with the deadline of the Phase-I scheduled to end in nine months by December this year, the government will have to construct the balance 26,666 kms at a rate of about 98 kms per day.

It may be noted that Bharatmala is one of the key projects of the government and is central to the plan of the ministry to enhance the share of freight movement through highways from 40% currently to 70-80% post the completion of the project.

"Out of 34,800 km length envisaged for development under Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I in the country, NH projects comprising length of 20,411 km with cost of ₹6,18,686 crore have been awarded and 8,134 km of project length has been constructed till now," Gadkari said in the reply.

"In the State of Rajasthan, out of 2,737 km envisaged length, NH projects with length of 2,226 km and cost of ₹39,669 crore have been awarded and 1,688 km of project length has been constructed till now. The remaining projects are planned for award by FY24," Gadkari added.

Under phase one of Bharatmala, against the targeted 9,000 kms of economic corridor construction, only 1,167 kms have been completed till December, 2021. Out of the 6,000 kms inter corridor feeder route, 348 kms could only be constructed till December last year. A miniscule 29 kms of port connectivity projects have been constructed against the target of 2,000 kms in the last five years under Bharatmala pariyojana. Expressways too lag behind with only 267 kms built till December last year against a target of 800 kms during the phase one period of 2017-22.

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