December 3, 2013
By Md Ameen – VIJAYAWADA
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will take a decision on renewal of the contract awarded to Hyderabad-based Madhucon Constructions for widening of the Vijayawada-Machilipatnam highway in a couple of weeks. The NHAI and Madhucon Constructions signed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2011 for widening of the 65-km national highway from Benz Circle in Vijayawada to Machilipatnam at a cost of `609 crore.
The project has come back into focus as the period of MoU expired in September, 2013 and the contractors expressing their willingness to start the project in view of the fast-tracking of the state bifurcation process.
The Vijayawada-Machilipatnam highway is one of the most important projects in Coastal Andhra as it connects Hyderabad. The existing two-lane national highway is not adequate to meet the increasing traffic demands between Vijayawada and Machilipatnam.
Of late, the road has become accident-prone especially on the stretch between Benz Circle and Kankipadu where vehicular traffic peaks in the morning and evening hours. The NHAI has proposed bypass roads near Vuyyur, Sultan Nagaram near Machilipatnam, Pamarru and Kankipadu. For some administrative and other reasons, the Madhucon Constructions has failed to ground the construction works for the last two years.
One of the important reasons for poor response from Madhucon Constructions is said to be the delay in the construction of Machilipatnam port. The Vijayawada-Guntur region is in the race for the proposed new capital of the residuary Andhra Pradesh.
If the Vijayawada-Machilipatnam Highway is widened, the revenue of toll gate will increase in the coming years which will be beneficial to the contractors. A senior NHAI official said the organisation is likely to renew the contract.
The proposed widening of the Vijayawada-Machilipatnam highway will play a vital role in the development of Krishna district.
The widened road will be of great use for transportation of goods from the central coastal districts and Hyderabad to the proposed Machilipatnam port.
December 3, 2013
Road ministry wants to include the economic affairs secretary in the board of NHAI to help fast-track decision making on road projects
New Delhi: The road ministry wants to include the economic affairs secretary in the board of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to help fast-track decision making on road projects by removing a layer of approvals required from other ministries, two officials familiar with the matter said, requesting anonymity.
The road ministry has floated a cabinet note with a proposal to enlarge the NHAI board and empower it to decide on issues such as conversion of project models when bids fail. Currently, the board includes secretary, Planning Commission; secretary, expenditure (ministry of finance); and secretary, road transport and highways; as part-time members, in addition to the chairman and five members of NHAI who are full-time members.
“Since a lot of the PPP (public-private-partnership) projects have failed to get bids between last year and this year and now we have the Prime Minister’s approval to bid those projects as EPC (engineering-procurement-construction), to fast-track the approvals to change the mode of bid, we have proposed in a cabinet note that the NHAI board be enlarged and be given the power to make this decision,” said one the officials mentioned above.
“The note has been sent to various ministries for comments and is likely to be sent for cabinet’s nod soon,” said the other official cited above.
In a 11 November review of the infrastructure sector, Prime MinisterManmohan Singh allowed the road ministry to pursue the EPC model after private firms shunned PPP projects.
“The NHAI board is already a high-powered board. In-principle steps to strengthen the board to take project-specific decisions are welcome,” said Pranavant, director at consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd. He uses a single name. “The board should be given the mandate to accord project-specific approvals like mode of implementation.”
December 3, 2013
BY MATTHIAS WILLIAMS
(Reuters) – The chairman of India’s largest road construction firm IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd (IRBI.NS) urged the government to invite companies to bid to build and operate dozens of new highways, a step regarded as crucial to economic growth.
India sees ramping up the construction of new roads, power plants and ports as crucial to making its businesses more internationally competitive and lifting economic growth out of its worst slowdown in a decade.
But the private sector’s efforts to build new projects have been derailed by problems ranging from coal and gas supply shortages in the power sector to a throttling bureaucracy and a lack of bank funding in the roads sector.
IRB needs to win new government contracts in order to reverse two consecutive falls in quarterly net profit, Chairman Virendra Mhaiskar told Reuters.
Mhaiskar, who until this year was in the Forbes India list of the country’s 100 richest people, said the state-run National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) should offer up for bidding 20-30 highways previously awarded to companies but which failed to take off.
He said in a phone interview he would like to make bids for new projects worth up to 40 billion rupees in the next 3-6 months to prop up an order book that has shrunk to 70 billion rupees from about 84 billion in May.
“Profit growth will entirely depend on new orders,” Mhaiskar said. “Because if they’re going to exhaust our order book pipeline, then the challenge on the profit remains.”
Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and Angel Broking say IRB is in a strong position to pick up new orders and both have a “buy” rating on IRB’s stock. However, BoA-ML in November cited a slowdown in new project orders as a concern.
IRB, India’s largest road construction firm by market value, posted a 12 per cent drop in net profit to 1.1 billion rupees in the July-Sept quarter, compared with the same period last year. Its net debt to equity ratio is 2.55:1.
India awarded under 2,000 km (1,240 miles) worth of new road construction contracts in the last fiscal year, which ended in March, against a target of 9,500 km (5,900 miles).
“We have seen very little orders getting announced by the NHAI in the last whole of the year. So that remains a prime concern,” Mhaiskar said.
“We understand their views as well, that they feel that there is sluggishness and they may not get a good response. But the point is: one needs to keep the good work going,” he said.
The NHAI chairman did not respond to a request for comment.
The government has pushed a public-private-partnership (PPP) construction model in which developers bid for projects in exchange for sharing some of the revenue with the state – a way of getting investment without emptying the public purse.
Besides delay in awarding government projects, an economic slowdown and various mining bans in India mean there are fewer cars and trucks than there might have been on the roads to pay tolls – eating into companies’ revenues.
Two of India’s best known infrastructure companies, GMR (GMRI.NS) and GVK (GVKP.NS), have moved to exit high-profile road projects. In response, the government is working on a formula to ease the payments that companies have to pay to the state in exchange for operating highways.
Recent projects have been designed mainly on a model known as “build-operate-transfer” (BOT), where companies build and own highways for a fixed period before handing them over to the government.
“These days bankers have become more cautious in lending to road BOT projects. They want 80 percent of the land in possession before the financial closure of the project could be achieved,” said Viral Shah, an analyst at Angel Broking. (Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Pravin Char)
November 29, 2013
By Express News Service – KOCHI
The opening of the new bridge constructed parallel to the second Goshree Bridge, connecting Bolgatty and Vallarpadam, is likely to be delayed further with the National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI) planning to extend its length.
According to officials of Soma Construction, the company entrusted with the work, the NHAI has decided to introduce a slight change in the structure of the bridge by extending its length.
“We have been told that there would be an extension, but we are yet to receive the final design which is expected to be delivered to us in December,” said Soma officials.
The authorities had plans to open the bridge for traffic by September 2012. Taking a significant step towards that end, a month-long trial run was flagged off, with only container carriers permitted to ply over it.
The bridge was constructed as part of the four-lane highway connecting the Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) to Kalamassery.
Once the bridge is opened for traffic, the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd can start work on the elevation and extension of the existing Goshree Bridge and convert it into a rail overbridge.
At present, there is a level-cross at the end of the bridge at Vallarpadam, to enable the movement of trains carrying containers to the ICTT. Traffic on the existing bridge has to be diverted to the new bridge to resume the extension work.
The 17.2-km-long road (NH 47 C), starting from Kalamassery connects the ICTT to NH 17 and NH 47. Though the bridge is ready, teh construction of two lanes of the highway will be completed only by May 2014, sources said. The two-lane road, which has been opened for traffic, has to be elevated a little more, the official said. It was commissioned considering the emergency situation prevailing at the time of ICTT’s commissioning in February 2011.
“Though the delay in opening the bridge will not affect the operations at the ICTT directly, the residents of Vallarpadam and people of Vypeen will have to bear the brunt due to the frequent closure of the railway gate caused by the increased number train services to ICTT. It would be good for the islanders, if the construction is completed as early as possible,” said officials of DP World Cochin which operates the ICTT.
November 29, 2013
Though information was procured instantly from NHAI regarding action after the Neera River deaths, the officer insisted on writing an application under Section 6 of the RTI Act
The unique part of Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch’s agitation on Wednesday morning was inspection of files under Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch held a demonstration in front of the NHAI office before procuring documents under RTI. Nav Bharat members DVR Rao, Commander Ravindra Pathak (retd), Raja Narsimhan, Mahesh Tele, Omkar Virkar, Dhananjay Oval, Akash Jadhav, Mrs Sonawane, Hrushikesh Patankar and Prashant Salunke held the demonstrations. We wanted to procure following documents after the horrendous Neera River bridge tragedy of 2nd November, which killed four young ad professionals from Pune after their car plunged into the river in the absence of a crash barrier at the tip of the bridge:
1. Correspondence between NHAI and Reliance Infra (or whatever are the names of the sub contractors) regarding action on the repair of the Neera River bridge after submission of the Inspection Report of Neera Tragedy by your Safety Consultants, sometime last week.
2. Correspondence between NHAI, Pune and the central authority of NHAI/Union Ministry of surface, road and transport, regarding repair of the Neera Bridge to make it safe, post the November 2 tragedy.
3. Correspondence of the last one year, from NHAI Pune office to Reliance Infra pertaining to the condition of the highway road constructed by Reliance Infra in the 300 km odd Maharashtra portion of the stretch of the Mumbai-Bangalore highway
4. Photographs taken out by NHAI regarding the condition of the Maharashtra stretch of the Mumbai-Bangalore stretch which is under operation, maintenance and security of Reliance Infra
5. Documents pertaining to action taken by NHAI against Reliance Infra in the past one year for shoddy work.
6. Unlike Section 6 of the RTI Act, where you need to write a formal application and pay Rs10 in cash or through IPO for a central government office, no formal application is required to inspect files under Section 4.
7. Yet, this writer sent a previous intimation to Rajesh Kaundal, Project Director, NHAIstating: “I wish to bring to your notice that a citizen desiring to inspect the documents containing information covered under Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, need not make any formal requisition under Section 6 of the Act because these documents should have already been published by the public authority so that citizens have ‘minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information’’
8. The contract given to Reliance Infra is clearly covered under `permits and authorisations’ and hence is covered under Section 4. I intend to exercise my right as a citizen to inspect these documents in your office with my colleagues during our peaceful protest today at your office between 11 am and 1 p m. Please note that it is not necessary for me under the Act to give such notice before inspection of documents covered under Section 4 of the Act. However, being a responsible citizen, I thought it appropriate to intimate you beforehand.’’
Despite this, Mr Kaundal replied to my email request stating: “Section 4 (1)(b) is designed to ensure that public authorities disclose certain information which are important to the public voluntarily at every level of operation. Please log on to www.nhai.org for the information published by NHAI.”
“For any other information requested in specific, it is requested to submit application to PIO with requisite fee so that the same can be made available to you within the stipulated time period including inspection of the documents for extraction of the information if required by you. In case of any difference of opinion, it is requested to contact CPIO on the following address:- VS Darbari, GM (Coord) & CPIO, National Highways Authority of India, No.G-5 & 6, Sector – 10, Dwarka, New Delhi – 110 075.Contact No.011-25074100 (Extn : 1520). Email : email@example.com.’’
The writer wrote back stating: “The information I have asked for comes under Section 4 of the RTI Act. However, it is not put up on your website, as far as I searched. In the absence, of you not having uploaded it in the public domain, that is uploaded on www.nhai.org, I, as a citizen, is allowed physical inspection of files in your office.’’
However, no amount of explanation convinced Mr Kaundal, when this writer met him in the office. He insisted that I file an application under Section 6 of the RTI Act and he has no problem about providing me information immediately. Since he assured me of immediate inspection of files, I relented. However, I am filing a complaint to the Information commissioner today, for not providing me information under Section 4.
It is so exasperating that, even after seven years of the implementation of the RTI Act, neither do most public authorities suo motu upload information under Section 4 on their respective websites and hesitate to allow physical inspection of files by citizens.
Amongst the several documents I procured, the following one is very worrying, as the contractor now says all major bridges from Dehu Road to Satara need crash barriers for safety but insists that the NHAI must pay for the repairs. And therein lies the ping-pong game of NHAI Pune sending this request to the Delhi office.
The details are as follows:
PS Toll Roads Pvt Ltd, the subsidiary agency of Reliance Infra has sent a letter to Project Director, NHAI on 25th November, stating that raising and strengthening of the Median wall (wall in between the two bridges) to the height of the crash barrier, is required for all the six major bridges between Dehu Road and Satara and not only for the Neera River bridge. This was revealed through the documents procured under RTI Act by Vinita Deshmukh and other members of Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch, from the NHAI office at Warje.
The major bridges which need urgent repairs, in the light of the terrible tragedy of 2ndNovember, where four ad professionals died, have been identified by the contractor as Pawana Bridge, Mula Bridge, Mutha Bridge, Krishna River Bridge, Venna River Bridge and Neera River Bridge. Repairs have also been recommended for a series of culverts and small bridges.
The letter written by Nagendra Rai, officer of the PS Toll Roads Pvt Ltd to Mr Kaundal, admits that all the major bridges and some of the culverts are ‘unsafe’ for commuters. The letter states, “you are aware that gap between all existing minor/major bridges and slab culvert is not properly closed by cras barrier or extending medial wall up to the level of crash barrier and same is leading to unsafe situation for the traffic.”
Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch is shocked that there is no urgency shown regarding the repair of the Neera Bridge despite the most horrendous tragedy earlier this month.
Instead, the NHAI Pune has washed its hands up stating that such a decision can be taken only by the Delhi office of NHAI. The reason being the statement in the letter in which Rai states, “As per schedule B of Concession Agreement, no scope is defined for improvement/strengthening of the median walls for all existing major/minor bridges and slab culverts.”
This in effect means, that the Reliance Infra’s subsidiary agency, PS Toll Roads Pvt Ltd, is asking NHAI to provide the funds. NHAI Pune in turn says they are not the authority and so the letter has been sent to Delhi.
In the end, Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch is appalled that the final victims are citizens. It has begun the process of procuring documents under RTI to file a public interest litigation (PIL).
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
November 26, 2013
The Defence and Forest and Environment ministries have given the go ahead to the proposed 150 km alternate highway to NH 31A, exclusively for defence purposes in Sikkim and West Bengal.
The stretch from Damdim, Chalsa to Rhenock has been allotted to the National Highways Authority of India and the remaining 51 kilometre to the PWD department for expansion, Chief Engineer Project Swastik SS Powral told PTI here.
The proposed route will cover Damdim, Chalsa, Khunia More, Jaldhaka and Tokday in West Bengal. The Khunia More to Rhenock axis via Rachela a distance of about 75 km linked up with the 51 km stretch from Rhenock to Ranipool via Rorathang. The proposal was floated by BRO Project Swastik in 2010-11.
Defence sources said that after the ministry was informed that NHAI had expressed reservations over taking up the project in Darjeeling district in West Bengal, it was allocated to Project Swastik under BRO.
Meanwhile, the state government has been preparing the Detailed Project Report on the up gradation of the road from Rhenock to Rorathang via Pakyong to Ranipool area which would be submitted soon.
At present, the condition of NH 31-A was not the best for defence purposes especially after the earthquake in 2011 and was very vulnerable, Powral added.
November 22, 2013
RANCHI: The National Highway 33 between Ranchi and Jamshedpur is likely to be repaired soon. Though political agitations have been taking place over the past few months and the parties have been demanding repair of the Steel City residents’ lifeline, the hue and cry got noticed only on Thursday. Two BJP leaders, one each from Ranchi and Jamshedpur, led a workers’ team which sat on a dharna at the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) regional office in Ranchi.
Former minister and Jamshedpur MLA Raghubar Das and former BJP legislator Saryu Rai jointly staged a dharna before the NHAI office in Ranchi with dozens of BJP workers demanding immediate repair of the highway. The protestors held placards in their hands and said if the road was not repaired soon they would not allow the NHAI office to function. Das said it was because of the apathy of the state government towards common man’s concerns that the NHAI office have delayed and denied repairing the road.
“Jharkhand’s ‘Super CM’, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had announced that FIRs would be lodged against the erring officials of NHAI if the road construction work did not start in 15 days. ‘Dummy CM’ Hemant Soren made similar announcement when he visited the Steel City,” Das said.
Saryu Rai, who also sat on the dharna, said being in opposition it was the responsibility of the BJP to draw attention of the government to issues that need immediate government intervention. “We receive reports of death on NH-33 almost everyday and hence waiting for the four-laning of road would just be a waste of time and precious lives,” he said.
After the dharna the NHAI officials assured the BJP protestors to start work on Chandil-Jamshedpur stretch from Friday with 100 labourers and between Ranchi and Bundu with another 100 labourers.
November 21, 2013
Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN |
NAGPUR: The latest recommendations by a subcommittee of ministry of environment and forests ( MoEF) on roads in protected areas (PAs) may spark more trouble for road widening by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) on NH-6 near Navegaon National Park and Mansinghdeo Wildlife Sanctuary on NH-7.
A six-member subcommittee headed by M K Ranjitsinh, member, NBWL, on September 28, has recommended to the MoEF that the status quo of the roads passing through national parks and tiger reserves shall remain the same.
The roads could be maintained and repaired in the best manner possible in their current form and present width. No widening or upgradation is to be allowed. If it is an existing tarred road, it shall be maintained as such and no widening of the tarred surface or the widening of the road itself, may be done.
More importantly, the guidelines will also be applicable for roads approaching or passing by national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves that are within a radius of 1km thereof, or within the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), whichever of the two is lesser.
Wildlife experts say the recommendation will make matters worse for NHAI but will benefit wildlife, especially on NH7 and NH6, where four-laning cuts tiger corridor between Pench, Kanha, Nagzira, Navegaon and Tadoba and vice versa. On NH6, Navegaon National Park and New Navegaon Sanctuary are within 1km in certain patches. Similar is the case with Mansinghdeo on NH7.
The NHAI has submitted a formal proposal to Pench Tiger Reserve to seek wildlife clearance for road widening in patches which passes by Mansinghdeo, which is contiguous to Pench. This is after Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) clearance, which has asked NHAI to seek final clearance from NBWL. However, the latest recommendations will make it tough to get wildlife clearance as road widening in some patches virtually touches the sanctuary boundary.
Talking to TOI, Ranjitsinh said, “When you widen roads around a PA, construction activity not only disturbs the movement of wild animals but destroys its corridors. There are Supreme Court orders on restriction to radius roads passing PAs.”
On the impact of new guidelines, Ranjitsinh said, “I don’t know to what extent the guidelines will affect NH7 and NH6. We don’t say don’t develop the roads but the damage should be evaluated.”
Another member on the MoEF subcommittee said, “The new guidelines will affect four-laning on NH7 and NH6. The recommendations have come from NBWL subcommittee, and when the NHAI proposal comes before it, how will it be able to defy its own guidelines. The Pench corridor is already fragmented. Four-laning will further damage it and break forest contiguity.”
The committee was constituted by the MoEF on June 26 to frame comprehensive guidelines for construction and repair roads passing through PAs in the country.
* Principle of avoidance: The foremost option would be to altogether avoid areas that are within or in the vicinity of any PA and to find alternatives that are socially & ecologically more appropriate,
* Principle of realignment: Road projects must investigate and demonstrate that they have considered other alternative routes that avoid natural areas of high ecological value. This must be an integral feature of a project proposal and implementation documents. Realignments must also be developed in a transparent manner through consultation with local communities and wildlife considerations,
* Principle of restoration: In natural areas, existing roads that are in disuse, or evaluated to be inefficient or detrimental to their objects, shall be targeted for decommissioning and subsequent ecological restoration, as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.
November 20, 2013
The proposed 19-km ‘Elevated Corridor Project’ connecting Chennai Port and Maduravoyal envisages direct access to the port from the outskirts of the city round the clock without traffic regulations. This will help in the speedy movement of cargo in and out of Chennai Port, the National Highways Authority of India has said in an affidavit in the Madras High Court.
The time required to reach Chennai Port from Maduravoyal through the corridor would be approximately 30 minutes. The project would help in augmenting the revenue of both the Central and State Governments by way of taxes besides improvement of trade, industry and employment.
The NHAI affidavit was in reply to a counter filed by the Chief Engineer of the State Public Works Department, Chennai. The NHAI had filed a writ petition seeking to quash the records of the Chief Engineer, PWD, Water Resource Organisation, of January 28 this year.
By that communication, the PWD had sought revised CRZ clearance for the elevated corridor project. The NHAI said it was aggrieved as the Tamil Nadu Government was putting stumbling blocks in implementing the corridor. The Chief Engineer had earlier filed the counter to the petition.
November 20, 2013
Committee recommends complete closure of all gaps following ad executives’ fatal accident
Pune Mirror Bureau
A consultants’ committee of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) have recommended that all ducts of bridges on the Pune-Bangalore Highway should be completely closed. The report comes after the recent, tragic accident in which four advertising professionals lost their lives.
In their safety audit report, submitted to the NHAI on Monday, the committee recommended that all similar ducts should be closed and barricaded to avoid mishaps.
The car carrying Pranav Lele, Sahil Qureshi, Shrutika Chandwani and Chintan Buch fell into the river Neera at Sarola, around 50 km from the city, on the Pune-Bangalore highway.
The car fell through a 15-foot gap between two bridges after hitting a road divider, and sank into the river. The accident raised several questions over security and the lack of concrete walls or crash barriers at the end of the bridge in Bhor taluka which separates Pune district from Satara.
Earlier, there was only a two-lane bridge over the highway; a second adjoining bridge was constructed a few years ago.
NHAI officials intend to share the report with the highway police for further discussions on the subject and will seek their feedback. A meeting of senior NHAI officials, the highway police and other stakeholders will also be held to chalk out a safety roadmap.
“The consultants have recommended that the duct near Neera Bridge where the accident occurred, should be closed. The report also suggests that all such ducts on the highway should be barricaded, to avoid such incidents.
All these recommendations will be sent to the NHAI’s headquarters in Delhi for final approval. Once this is done, and the required funds have been procured, the work will start,” said a senior NHAI official on condition of anonymity.