Taking note of the delays dogging highway construction in the country, the Parliamentary Committee on Estimates has sought a detailed report about the slow progress of projects and corrective steps from the ministry of road transport and highways in the next three months.

In the sixteenth report on the functioning of the national highway projects tabled in the Lok Sabha on August 8, the committee maintained that the road transport ministry missed the annual target every year between 2014 and 2018 after which it followed a practice of lower targets.

Directing the ministry, the panel said in the report, “The committee seeks a detailed study about the delay, slow progress of the projects and corrective steps initiated, if any, within three months of the presentation of this report.”

“The committee is constrained to note that the targets for the development of national highways/roads fixed during the year 2014-15 to 2017-18 could not be achieved, whereas, for the year 2018-19, the target itself has been reduced in comparison with the previous three years,” the committee said.

In its observations, the committee pointed out that in FY15, the government constructed 4410 kms against a target of 6300 kms while in FY16, against a target of 10,950 kms, only 6061 kms could be constructed. In FY17, and FY18, the total construction was 8,231 kms and 9,829 kms, against a target of 15,000 kms.

“As regards 2018-19, the target was 10,000 kms, which has been considerably reduced as compared with the previous years and the achievement has been 10,855 km,” the committee said in the report,” while adding that the analysis reveals that 30% of the targets during these five years have not been achieved.

The ministry quoted issues like local, project level factors attributable to the authority or contractor, or force majeure reasons behind the delays. “Delays in land acquisition, pre-construction activities, law and order issues, contractors’/concessionaires’ cash flow problems are common reasons for project delays and time overrun,” said the ministry in its reply to the panel.

Bahujan Samaj Party MP Kunwar Danish Ali, who is a member of the estimates committee, called for a wider consultation even before the detailed project report is made. “No consultation is made with the public representative at the time of DPR preparation. There are times when the alignment needs to be altered. In case of the Hapur-Moradabad stretch on the NH-9, we had to get approval for five underpasses after the construction began. Public and the local representatives must be consulted at the survey stage,” Danish Ali said.

In its reply however, the ministry maintained that it has achieved a record construction of 37km per day in the year 2020-21 despite the fact that the world was brought to a standstill by the Covid pandemic.

It may be noted though that the pace of highway construction has declined at a fast pace since then, data from the ministry of road transport and highways reveals. The average highway construction per day has dipped to 20.43 km per day in the four-month period between April – July, FY23.

According to the data, the government constructed 2,493 kms (20.43 km/day) of national highways till July in the current financial year.

Follow us on Facebook, X, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp to never miss an update from Fortune India. To buy a copy, visit Amazon.