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Highway construction at creditable 22km/day in April-July

A creditable, near-normal 976 km of national highways were constructed in June.A creditable, near-normal 976 km of national highways were constructed in June.A creditable, near-normal 976 km of national highways were constructed in June.A creditable, near-normal 976 km of national highways were constructed in June. (Representative image)

Highway construction has picked up resiliently in June-July from the April low. Despite the monsoon rains slowing the construction a bit in July as usual, 2,657 km of highways were built in the April-July period of this fiscal, down just 12% from 3,015 km a year ago.

Of course, with the construction at an average of 22.14 km/day so far this fiscal, the sector has a lot of catching up to do to match the last fiscal’s 28 km/day pace.

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After clocking a spectacular monthly average of 1,099 km during the January-March period, the construction activity remained muted in April and May – 210 km in April and 637 km in May. A creditable, near-normal 976 km of national highways were constructed in June.

The gap in construction was as high as 73% in April this year when compared with the corresponding month last year. This narrowed down to 50% for the two-month period and further to 15% in the first three months of the current fiscal compared with the same period last fiscal.

“It is indeed creditable that 22/km day is achieved when the entire country was in the grip of a massive local and national lockdowns. It would have been quite reasonable to accept zero-km construction during the period. However, one is pleasantly surprised to see that nation has actually been able to achieve construction at 22 km per day,” said Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Infra.

Government sources said of the total highway constructed in April-July of the current fiscal, the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) has done 1,883 km; while its two other implementing agencies — National Highways Authority of India, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) — have constructed 598 km and 176 km, respectively.

A year ago, MoRTH had constructed 1,886 km, NHAI 1,099 km and NHIDCL 30 km. Rating agency Crisil, in a recent note, said highway construction could fall by 10-13% in 2020-21 from 10,237 km in 2019-20.

India had constructed highways at the rate of 28 km a day in the entire 2019-20. The year 2018-19 had been the best so far with total construction touching to a record high of 10,885 km or 29.82 km a day.

Awards of national highway projects during the first four months of the current fiscal, however, grew by 185% to 2,702 km from 947 km a year earlier.

While MoRTH has awarded 1,708 km, NHAI and NHIDCL have awarded 767 km and 227 km, respectively. The government hopes to award 12,650 km highway length in 2020-21. Crisil estimated highway project awards may come down to 7,000-7,500 km in the current fiscal from 8,911 km a year ago.

Rating agency Icra had earlier said the execution in FY21 is estimated to be lower by around 22% against the targets. For the entire current fiscal, the MoRTH has set a 10,250-km construction target.

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