September 27, 2014
The Centre will start identifying urban areas which can be transformed into “smart cities”, before the Budget, Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu said here on Monday.
The government is currently holding consultations with all stakeholders including state governments, local bodies and those keen on developing smart cities.
“I have held consultation with my state counterparts and taken them into confidence. Now we are at the advance stage of finalising the contours of the smart cities and by November we expect the process to be completed…and expect to identify the cities before the Budget,” Naidu, who was in town today for the Ieema annual convention, told reporters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has envisaged developing 100 smart cities by 2022. The Finance Ministry has allocated Rs 7,060 crore for developing these cities as well, which will replace the present flagship urban renewal scheme JNNURM.
“I am planning to complete the process of consultation and finalisation of the contours by end of November and take them to the Expenditure Finance Committee and then to Cabinet. Then from the beginning of the year, roll out will begin,” he said.
“We plan to have at least 2-3 smart cities in each state,” he said.
Emphasising the need for taking all the stakeholders on board, he said, “You have to take the states and urban local bodies into confidence. Then you need support from different sectors and you need finances, which need a lot of consultations. We have finalised PPP model for developing smart cities.”
Naidu further said there is an increased interest from other countries to participate in this project. “I have held consultations with a lot of foreign delegations who are interested in participating in this project. Japan is keen to cooperate to transform Varanasi into a smart city. Similarly, a former Singaporean Prime Minister has also met me and expressed interest in constructing a new capital for Andhra, which I want to make into a smart city,” he said.
He said he will visit cities like Oklahoma and Seoul to understand their models.
However, he noted that creating a smart city is not an easy task. “It is not easy to construct a smart city overnight without light and basic amenities. We need to prepare habitat with a smart leadership. Further, there is a need to provide facilities for transport, water, disposal of waste, traffic security management, education, entertainment and employment opportunities, among others. All these things will take time,” he said.
“In this entire process, having 24×7 power supply will be critical. A city cannot be smart if there is no power. Therefore, there is a need to create proper transmission and distribution system to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity,” Naidu added.
December 23, 2013
JAIPUR: Finally, after being at loggerheads for several months on various issues regarding widening of Jaipur-Gurgaon stretch of national highway (NH-8), the state government andNational Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has reached a consensus on two major impediments. NHAI received an estimate for the relocation of two high-tension power (HTP) lines on Wednesday, while the state government handed over the land at Sanjay Van to the authorities.
After dilly-dallying for 20 months, the Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited (JVVNL) has given the total costing for the relocation of two HTP lines from Jaipur bypass. The JVVNL will roughly take two months for processing the tender and another two months for shifting it after which NHAI is expected to start construction in the patch.
NHAI is examining the estimate and clarification submitted by the electricity board and is likely to take final decision on it soon. The issue was pending with the Jaipur discom for past many months leading to a delay in widening the stretch. However, after a team of engineers went to Japan to study the technology for transfer of lines, the JVVNL has agreed to initiate the work.
In another major breakthrough, the state government provided land to the concessionaire for carrying out work at Sanjay Van. Earlier, the government was demanding construction of a boundary wall from the developer in lieu of handing over the forest land, which NHAI rejected. It maintained that a payment of Rs 1.15 crore has already been made to forest department as a part of compensation. After intervention from the officials of NHAI and state government, the issue was finally settled.
“Our efforts are on to remove all hindrances for all the national highway projects in the state including important linkage between Delhi-Jaipur. I am hopeful that most of the issues will be sorted out soon and inconvenience caused to commuters will be reduced to minimum possible extent,” said AK Mishra, chief general manager (technical-NHAI), Rajasthan.
Jaipur: After locking horns for several months on various issues in widening of Jaipur-Gurgaon stretch of national highway (NH -8), the state government and National Highway Authority of India reached a consensus on two major impediments. NHAI has received an estimate for the relocation of two high tension power (HTP) lines on Wednesday while state government has handed over the land at Sanjay Van to the authority.
After dillydallying for 20 months the Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited has given the total costing for the relocation of two HTP line from Jaipur bypass. The JVVNL will roughly take two months for processing the tender and another two months for shifting it after which NHAI is expected to start construction in the patch.
NHAI is examining the estimate and clarification submitted by the electricity board and is likely to take final decision on it soon. The issue was pending with the Jaipur discom for the past many months leading to delay in widening of the stretch. However after a team of engineers went to Japan to study the technology for transfer of lines, the JVVNL has agreed to initiate the work.
In another major break through, the state government provided land to the concessionaire for carrying out work at Sanjay Van. Earlier, the government was demanding construction of a boundary wall from the developer in lieu of handing over the forest land, which NHAI rejected. It maintained that a payment of Rs. 1.15 cr has already been made to forest department as a part of compensation. After intervention from the officials of NHAI and state government issue was finally settled down.
“Our efforts are to remove all hindrances for all the national highway projects in the state including important linkage between Delhi-Jaipur. I am hopeful that most issues will be sorted out soon and inconvenience caused to commuters will be reduced to minimum possible extent” said AK Mishra, chief general manager (Tech), Rajasthan.
December 2, 2013
Dipak Kumar Dash,TNN |
The Road Safety and Traffic Management Board will have overarching powers to seek explanation and issue directions to both government and private agencies on all issues relating to road safety, said a senior government official. He added that the board will have powers to summon vehicle manufacturers, if it finds any fault in vehicles involved in accidents.
Sources said the board will have powers to recommend minimum design, construction, operation and maintenance standards for national highways besides conducting safety audits to monitor compliance. It can also conduct research in different spheres of road safety and traffic management besides recommending mechanism for data collection.
Different agencies including World Health Organization (WHO) have pushed the need for a central body that can coordinate and oversee road safety-related issues in India. At present, there is little coordination among different wings of governments at the Centre and states working on road safety.
The transport ministry has decided to take the executive order route to create the board as the amendment in Motor Vehicles Act to increase penalty for traffic violations is pending before the Lok Sabha for 18 months after it was passed by the Rajya Sabha. Sources said the ministry and WHO are roping in some Lok Sabha MPs across parties to hold a dialogue during the next Parliament session. The plan is to push passage of the bill since road safety experts feel increasing penalty for violation of traffic rules would prove a deterrent to vehicle users.
November 1, 2013
Nearly 1 billion Yuan project comes to light after seven failed attempts over the past 50 years
China on Thursday opened a new highway that links what the government has described as Tibet’s “last isolated county” – located near the border with Arunachal Pradesh – with the rest of the country and will now provide all-weather access to the strategically-important region.
Chinese state media have hailed the opening of the highway to Medog – which lies close to the disputed eastern section of the border with India – as a technological breakthrough, with the project finally coming to fruition after seven failed attempts over the past fifty years.
China first started attempting to build the highway to Medog – a landlocked county in Tibet’s Nyingchi prefecture – in the 1960s, according to State media reports, in the aftermath of the 1962 war with India.
With Thursday’s opening of the road, every county in Tibet is now linked through the highway network, underlining the widening infrastructure gulf across the disputed border, even as India belatedly pushes forward an upgrading of border roads in more difficult terrain.
The official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday described Medog as “the last roadless county in China”. Before this week, Medog was the only one of China’s 2,100 counties to remain isolated from the highway network, according to State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).
What the project will do
State media reports have focused on the development benefits that the project would bring and have sought to play down the strategic dimensions. Local officials said the road’s opening will bring down commodity prices and widen access to healthcare.
The road will also provide access to the border county for nine months of the year. That the government was willing to spend as much as 950 million Yuan – or $ 155 million – on a 117-km highway, with ostensibly few economic returns expected, has underscored the project’s importance to State planners.
Local officials said prior to the opening of the highway, reaching Medog required traversing the treacherous Galung La and Doxong La mountains at an altitude of 4,000 metres. With frequent landslides, the road was often rendered impassable.
Now, the road will be accessible for “8 to 9 months per year, barring major natural disasters”, Ge Yutao, Communist Party head of the transportation department for the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), told Xinhua.
Work on the 117-km road began in 2009, a year after the project was given the green light by the State Council, or Cabinet.
Renewed attention on infrastructure projects
The opening of the road comes at a time when there has been renewed attention on infrastructure projects in border areas in India and China.
Last week, both countries signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing, aimed at expanding confidence-building measures. The agreement calls for setting up channels of communication between military commands, increasing the number of border personnel meetings, and formalising rules such as no tailing of patrols, to built trust and avoid incidents.
The agreement does not specify or limit either country’s plans to boost infrastructure – an issue that, analysts say, has in the past triggered tensions along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), most notably in April when a Chinese incursion sparked a three-week-long stand-off in Depsang, Ladakh.
Han Hua, a South Asia scholar at Peking University, suggested in a recent interview that the “basic reason” for the incident was “too much construction” along the border. The Chinese side, she acknowledged, did not have to build closer to the disputed LAC because their infrastructure, as well as more favourable terrain enabled quicker mobilisation.
“If we don’t have the overall collaboration of the military, policy-makers and decision-makers on both sides,” she said, “it will be difficult to avoid such incidents”.
‘India’s plans will not be limited’
The BDCA, Indian officials said, will not limit India’s plans to upgrade infrastructure. It recognises the principle of equal and mutual security, which allows either side to pursue its security in its own way. At the same time, officials say the BDCA will still help “regulate activity” along the border by opening up new channels of communication, even as the border continues to remain a matter of dispute.
On Thursday, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun told a regular press conference that military personnel would hold “regular meetings” and “make joint efforts” to maintain peace in border areas, following the signing of the BDCA. The agreement, he said according to a Xinhua report, “summarised good practices and experiences on the management of differences in China-India border areas”.
October 24, 2013
Bejing: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China, herein after referred to as the ‘Participants’,
October 18, 2013
During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s India visit in May, India agreed to “explore the possibilities of the proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor” with China. But New Delhi is going slow on this. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits China this month, the Chinese will push for the BCIM plan. China has already been in discussion with Myanmar and Bangladesh to take this forward. During Singh’s Beijing visit, China will also offer to declare Kunming and Kolkata as sister cities to carry forward the process.
It is New Delhi and not states in the east or north-east that fear Chinese trade and investments along the corridor. This trade can only boost their economies. The opening of the Stilwell Road, built during World War II, is a case in point. Assam’s industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi and Arunachal Pradesh’s former governor J J Singh have been enthusiastic about opening the road to China-India trade. Unlike the Nathu La pass in Sikkim, the Stilwell Road is capable of handling 20-25 per cent of Sino-Indian bilateral trade. But a powerful defence-commerce ministry lobby has blocked it all these years.
China has modernised its part of the road and its companies are doing that in Myanmar now. Only 66 km of the road falls in India — so, if the Chinese army uses it to amass troops on the Indian border for a surprise offensive or dump their products in a trade war, they can do it even if India does not formally open the road. Also, trade with India via Arunachal Pradesh will immediately stop all claims of that region as “southern Tibet”.
Note how quickly China shed its reservations on Sikkim, after trade resumed through the Nathu La pass. JJ Singh, a former army chief, advocated an Indian presence on the road for pragmatic reasons, but that did not help with the mandarins in Delhi. So, an alternate route was chosen for the BCIM car rally in February-March: it started at Kolkata, passed through Bangladesh and India’s north-eastern states of Assam and Manipur, and ended in Kunming, Yunnan via west and north Myanmar.
Now, China wants the car rally route to be converted into the BCIM Friendship highway and turned into an economic corridor with industries, trading entrepots and tourism infrastructure developed around it. This is an excellent idea. Large parts of China, contiguous with south Asia, are landlocked. The Strait of Malacca is a choke point that China wants to bypass through overland trade through Myanmar, Bangladesh and the north-east. Beijing wants to transform BCIM into a live regional grouping to integrate the two most populous nations of the world and use the Bangladesh-Myanmar corridor to help Chindia draw south-east Asia into the world’s strongest future economic bloc. Beijing hopes that India sheds its fear of encirclement by China and creates a win-win situation for both countries in Asia, from south-east to west.
India, especially its eastern and north-eastern states, would stand to gain much more economically by higher trade and connectivity with China and the rest of Asia. On the other hand, there is no material gain if India acts as a pivot for American interests in south Asia.
A formal push for the BCIM during Manmohan Singh’s China visit may boost investments and help chief ministers or industry ministers in the east and north-east to showcase their states to Chinese investors. If the home ministry can waive its objections and agree to allow Chinese telecom majors like Huawei to invest in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor or the Indian embassy in Beijing can rope in huge Chinese investments for Andhra Pradesh, the east and north-east should not be deprived because the region has a long border with China.
September 26, 2013
Urging the Centre to act, NHAI said that if the ministry did not consider the NHAI option, it should ensure the project is handed over to the Haryana government. In any event, the Centre should not spend more time on litigation that is dragging on.
In a sharp indictment of the Haryana government, NHAI told road secretary Vijay Chhibber that while Haryana government exploits the expressway link to generate revenues, it has done little to reduce the load on the highway.
“It is the responsibility of the state government to provide connectivity across the national highway without interfering with the highway traffic,” the NHAI said. But instead of improving infrastructure, Haryana has pursued sought added NHAI investment.
Officials told TOI that Haryana government has been glacial when it has come to implementing its promises. Neither the state government or the legal process was anywhere near providing a solution.
NHAI chief in his letter said the chaos on Gurgaon expressway is due to the linear development in the millennium city where large scale land use has been changed to maximize revenue. He has said that Gurgaon’s Master Plan should have provided for lateral arterial roads instead of using NH-8 as the main artery.
The letter echoes what Delhi-Gurgaon commuters and travelers within Gurgaon experience – the highway is one of the main conduits of intra-city commuting as underpasses, over bridges and linking roads have not been developed. Plans for an alternate Delhi-Gurgaon road are also gathering dust.
NHAI said it has written that Haryana government looks towards NHAI for even construction of foot over bridges (FOBs) and maintaining drains. “This is not the concept under which the highways are supposed to be developed and maintained,” the letter says.
Singh has said that Haryana has been pushing for creating additional facilities such as flyover at Hero Honda Chowk, FOBs, crossing facilities between Rajiv Chowk and Kherki Dhaula, which are not highway facilities but conveniences for town residents.
The NHAI chairman has also pointed to “reckless” lending by IDFC and four other public sector banks, who without regard to the termination payment, gave a Rs 1,600 crore loan on account of refinancing.
Singh mentioned that NHAI and the Centre had signed an agreement on September 18, 2012, with the concessionaire only with the view to protect interests of public sector banks. He claimed that despite NHAI walking an extra mile the lenders “do not seem to be bothered at all and are still behaving in an irresponsible manner.”
Singh points out that the developer and lenders are raising extraneous issues and diverting attention from the main issue of violation of the latest MoU that was negotiated under court supervision. By not implementing its terms, the concessionaire can be in contempt of the Delhi High Court. The case, he said, has made no progress in the last six months.
NHAI said that if Haryana does not want to take over the project, the Centre can consider giving about Rs 1.8 crore revenue per month – the amount that the authority gets as its revenue share from toll.
September 25, 2013
Ragini Verma | Asit Ranjan Mishra
The roads ministry has set up a task force for looking into the framework of the authority
New Delhi: Nearly seven months after finance minister P. Chidambaram proposed setting up a roads regulator to address challenges such as financial stress, construction risk and contract management issues, the roads ministry is close to finalizing the structure and role of the proposed regulator.
“We will get the cabinet approval for the roads regulator by December,” Vijay Chhibber, roads secretary, told reporters at a conference organized by industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The ministry of road transport and highways has proposed that the roads regulator have an adjudicatory role for contract dispute resolution, renegotiation of future contracts and enforcement of contractual obligations.
For issues related to renegotiation of existing contracts, tariff structuring and toll mechanisms, project entry and exit options and specific policy issues, the regulator is proposed to play an advisory role.
“Road ministry is working on these terms of reference and the constitution mechanism and organizational structure of the roads regulator is under finalization,” Chhibber said.
The roads ministry has set up a task force for looking into the framework of the authority. The ministry has proposed that the regulator be headed by a board with a chairperson and two members, to whom an executive wing with technical and secretariat support will report.
“Toll-paying users under the current architecture do not get a fair voice. We should have a third party whom users can approach if they are not being provided with the services promised in the contract,” said Chhibber. “Then we are struggling with (contract) renegotiations. A roads regulator will help address these issues.”
Economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram, speaking at the same conference, said independent regulators such as in the roads sector are necessary to avoid situations where private parties and government bodies are blaming each other for issues arising out of project implementation.
“Regulators must begin to do this. If there is a concession issue, if there is a problem about the economics of the project which can happen, then we very clearly look at the stress test. It should very clearly look at where culpability lies and some haircut needs to be put in place so that the moral hazard issue is properly answered,” he said.
The roads ministry saw a sharp decline in award of contracts for highways last year. Against a lowered target of 8,100km, only 1,116km of highway projects were awarded.
The ministry will ramp up award of road projects under the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode in the absence of interest from private players for build, operate, transfer projects, Chhibber said.
The ministry is looking to award 6,500km of road projects through the EPC mode in 2013-14, he added.
“The primary role of the proposed road regulator should be appropriate risk and reward allocation between government, developers, lender and especially the users,” said Parvesh Minocha, managing director of the transportation business at infrastructure consultancy Feedback Infra Pvt. Ltd. “If this is done and a proper structure is put in place to implement it then the downstream remedial roles like dispute resolution and failure handling will get significantly reduced.”
September 25, 2013
Dipak Kumar Dash, TNN |
After receiving a proposal from National Highway Builders Federation (NHBF) and IRB that the proposed premium rescheduling scheme should be extended to all premium projects.NHAI has asked the ministry to put a supplementary note for Cabinet’s consideration. NHBF has said, “Selective approach in allowing rescheduling of premium will invite litigation and any policy amendments needs to be extended to all premium projects awarded, irrespective of these projects have been issued appointed date and started construction or not and allow the concessionaire who are opting for this scheme.”
It added any litigation on this issue may derail the scheme and will in turn affect the revival of this sector. NHBF has said due to economic slowdown last year and rate of GDP growth plummeting to a decade low 5% have impacted toll revenues as low as 50% than estimated in majority of projects.
According to NHAI sources, the premium committed in case of already started 16 projects comes close to Rs 55,000 crore in the next 20-30 years and developers of the yet to be started 23 projects have committed to pay Rs 1 lakh crore to the authority.
Ministry officials said it’s impossible to add fresh ones to the list of identified “stressed” projects since a consensus has already been achieved among law, finance and road ministries to allow premium rescheduling of 23 projects including GMR’s Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad highway. “By bringing in more projects under this list we will open a new window for debate and objections. How can we say that projects where work has started are under stress?” asked a ministry official.
Moreover, the signal that economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram sent on Monday on premium rescheduling at a FICCI summit indicates the amount of heat this new proposal may generate. He had said that to avoid “moral hazard” because of this move, there is need to identify “stressed” projects objectively and to have a methodology.
He had added that there is need to find out whey the particular projects are stressed. “If it’s because of authority’s default then they must take the haircut. We can’t brush it under the carpet. If the developer is at fault then it must take the haircut,” Mayaram had said.
The expenditure secretary had also said that there is need of a regulator to deal with such issues objectively.
September 18, 2013
By YASHODHARA DASGUPTA, ET Bureau |
The government has now decided to form a committee comprising senior officials from the highways ministry, department of expenditure and the Planning Commission to track the Authority’s progress, said people with knowledge of the development. The committee will meet periodically, beginning this Saturday, and their observations will be reviewed by the PMO.
“The committee will hold periodic meetings to review the progress being made in implementing the expressway projects by the vertical set up under the NHAI last month for this purpose,” an official said.
According to the project review, the earthwork required to build a pass, or right-of-way, for the 135-km Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE), may not even be available in the vicinity. It will now be necessary to re-examine the design and its cost implications.
The EPE, mandated by the top court eight years ago, is meant to handle heavy trucks and non-Delhi bound vehicles. The NHAI has already missed the August deadline for request for quotation for this job.
An official said that while the deadlines set by the PMO may be difficult to meet, its directive has brought to the fore the tardy progress made even the most basic legwork for these expressways.
Similarly problems plague the 125-km Delhi-Meerut expressway, where changes in the scope of the project would be required, which in turn would necessitate a modified proposal to be sent to the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee. A decision is yet to be taken on how the utilities would be shifted—a must before any road can be built. The NHAI has been given a week to resolve this issue.