Lack of planning takes a toll on commuters

March 12, 2014

Hindustan Times (Delhi)

Asheesh Mamgain

With a little vision, the authorities could have avoided digging the second time. SURINDER SINGH, Nihal Vihar

The Nangloi-Najafgarh Road is a vital road link that connects north Delhi with west Delhi. The road sees heavy vehicular traffic throughout the day, and is one of the worst stretches in the city. Commuters lament that this has been the condition on the road for the last few years and given the state of affairs, the problems are likely to continue next year as well.


NADEEM HASSAN / HT PHOTO Work on Nangloi-Najafgarh Road was completed six months back and now it will be dug up again by DJB .The main reason for the problems related to the Nangloi-Najafgarh Road is the lack of coordination between different government agencies and lack of planning as well. The public works department (PWD) was involved in giving a fresh concrete layer to the road in the last few years. But the work was hampered when the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) initiated a major rupees nine crore sewerline project for the villages lining the road. The residents of villages such as Baprola, Bakarwala and Nilothi had been demanding a sewerline for years.

As a result the road was dug up and the road laying project got derailed and was consequently delayed. Though the road was completed six months ago after a delay of a couple of years, it is again going to be dug up by DJB. Says Pankaj Singh, the area councillor, “The sewerline the DJB had laid down for five villages along NangloiNajafgrah Road was a small one. Now in addition to these villages there are 25 other unauthorised colonies lining the road. Now the DJB has cleared another project of Rs 24 crore for putting in a bigger line.”

Says Surinder Singh, a resident of Nihal Vihar, “Only with a little vision, the authorities could have included these unauthorised colonies in the earlier sewerline project. This would have saved a lot of taxpayer’s money and also avoided another round of digging on the recently laid down road. The commuters are now going to have a tough time. But sewerline for our colonies is also an important issue.”

Another problem pertaining to the Nangloi-Najafgarh Road has been illegal vendors occupying precious road space. The problem still continues. Says Sukhdev Dabbas, a resident, “During evening hours, the road sees so much traffic and the presence of illegal vendors whose numbers is ever increasing, only compounds our problems.”



India looking to access Russian market through road route via Iran

December 24, 2013

Alexander Korablinov, RIR


Indian officials ask Freight Forwarders’ Association of India to conduct a dry run to study the feasibility of using a road route between Iran and Azerbaijan, according a report on Mint.

India is trying to get easier access the markets of Russia and former Soviet republics. Source: RIA Novosti






India, which is exploring a free trade agreement with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, is pondering over using a road link between Iran and Azerbaijan, to get easier access the markets of Russia and former Soviet republics, Mint said on its website.on Monday. India’s commerce ministry has asked the Freight Forwarders’ Association of India (FFAI) to conduct a dry run to study the feasibility of using the road route between Rasht in Iran and Astara in Azerbaijan, the paper said.“We are trying to completely explore the route through a cost benefit analysis,” the paper cited an anonymous Indian commerce ministry official as saying. “The idea is to use the infrastructure as it is present today. The plan to build the rail is going on separately.”  The official told the paper that FFAI would submit a report on the feasibility of the route by February or March.

For the last six months, India has been trying to persuade Iran to build the 165-kilometre missing rail link between Rasht and Astara, but no concrete agreement has been reached.

“It is very important to keep India economically engaged in the region because there is a lot of untapped potential,” Ram Upendra Das, a senior fellow at Research and Information System for Developing Countries told the paper. “Irrespective of our economic relationship with other countries, this would be a new region to expand our trade.”

The paper added that India faces a growing imbalance in its trade with Russia, with the latter maintaining a $2.2 billion trade surplus as for 2012. That figure is unlikely to come down in 2013, although it is widely believed that Russian exports to India have fallen this year.




Jammed-up roads-Open, accountable system needed to settle disputes with developers

December 24, 2013

 Business Standard Editorial Comment  |   New Delhi  


India’s highway-building programme is in crisis. This is partly due to its very ambitious scale, which means that public funds are not adequate to meet the programme’s demand for capital, given the swiftness with which roadsneed to be rolled out. There are other reasons as well. The crisis is also caused by the government’s inability to design auctions that eliminate unrealistic bids and delays that, in some cases, are a direct outcome of tardy clearances and regulatory hassles. The road sector’s problems have also arisen because the government’s private sector partners failed to take into account the effect a growth slowdown would have on their revenue, or were too ambitious in their forecasts. Thanks to a combination of these factors, not even a single build-operate-transfer (BOT) project was awarded in the first six months of the ongoing financial year, indicating the degree to which the private sector has soured on road-building. Basically, nobody wants to touch it.

In October, the government set up a panel under the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, C Rangarajan, to figure out if there was a way out of this conundrum. The panel had some difficult decisions to take. In particular, many existing highway concessionaires wanted to defer the premiums that were due to the National Highways Authority of India, or NHAI, under the BOT system. The premium, which can range from Rs 3 crore to Rs 680 crore a year, is to be paid out over 20 to 25 years, increasing by five per cent every year. The total premium due over the next few decades is Rs 1.5 lakh crore. But the fact that revenues have not matched estimations means that many companies are grumbling about having to pay out. The government, meanwhile, alert for once to the concern that the private sector is trying to feather its own nest at the expense of the public exchequer, may reportedly want to cut off the payment of dividends by road-building companies – usually special purpose vehicles, or SPVs – to their parent company as long as premiums to the NHAI are still outstanding. Another possibility that the Rangarajan panel is considering is reducing the upfront payment of premiums for the next few years by a fixed proportion – 75 per cent, in fact. The NHAI has already argued for a low discount rate and against penalties for private developers.

It is certainly true that the private sector must stay involved in road-building in India. The government cannot pay for everything. And something must be done to enable stalled projects to move forward. However, an arbitrary and opaque mechanism is a very bad idea; nor should the private sector be allowed to dictate terms. The government must take account of the fact that just giving into demands for renegotiation sets up a severe moral hazard problem, and that it also renders past auctions unfair and future auctions problematic. Thus, two criteria should be front and centre in the final decisions taken by the government. First, the mechanism for dispute settlement should be transparent, consistent and independent. Second, it should not unduly benefit the private sector. In fact, there should be clear penalties – regardless of the request from the NHAI – for anyone who has delayed a project. This should include the government, since in some cases private developers have suffered because the government has sat on clearances for five years. Transparency and financial accountability are essential to clean up India’s vital roads sector.



Proposed green road to Bangalore gathers pace

December 24, 2013


NHAI to get permission for road to pass through elephant reserve

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is in the process of getting clearance from the National Board of Wildlife, for 8 km of the proposed Chennai-Bangalore Expressway.

The green field project road will pass through 7 km of the Royal Elephant Reserve in Andhra Pradesh, and about 300 metres of the Mahimandalam forest in Vellore district.

Officials at NHAI said that after having made changes in the alignment, they needed about 67 acres of land in the elephant reserve.

“Under the earlier alignment, the road cut across the forest in four locations but that has been brought down to just one location now,” explained an official.

The Union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) had recently asked the NHAI to identify routes used by elephants so that underpasses could be built for vehicles. “The project consultant has already studied and suggested two underpasses. We have also requested the district forest officer, Chittoor, to look at our proposal,” the official said.

The MOEF had also asked the NHAI to explore the possibilities of utilisation of fly ash in embankment construction, to look at the possibility of cooled mix technology instead of the regular hot mix and for details of water bodies along the alignment of the project.

“These are all under preparation presently and we are likely to get MOEF clearance in a year’s time by when land acquisition is likely to be completed,” the official said.

The six-lane, access-controlled road will be 262 km long and require around 2,600 hectares of land. The expressway, which has been proposed under the National Highways Development Project, will pass through Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and take the Kolar, Chittoor route.

On completion, it will be an alternative to the two existing roads to Bangalore – the one passing through Kolar and Chittoor and the Hosur, Krishnagiri and Walajapet route.

PWD probe grants clean chit to Kumarhatti-Nahan road project

December 18, 2013

Shalender Kalra, Hindustan Times | Nahan,


After a probe into the alleged irregularities in the widening of the Kumar Hatti-Nahan road project, the quality and design wing of the Public Works Department (PWD) has reportedly given it a clean cheat.
During his visit to Sarhan on September 17, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh had ordered PWD superintendent of engineer (SE) to conduct a probe into the 75-kilometre-long World Bank-aided project, which is expected to come up at the cost of Rs. 142 crore.

Sources placed with the PWD said following the CM’s order a team headed by the SE (quality and design) inspected the road and collected samples of the materials used.

 However, when the reports of the samples were found satisfactory, said sources, the probing team gave their clearance to the project.

The probe report further stated that the work was carried out as per the parameters set by the detailed project report (DPR).

When asked, PWD SE (quality and design) BB Bhardwaj confirmed that the quality of the construction was found satisfactory, adding that the collected samples also passed the lab test.

He further said the construction of the road was in progress according to the DPR.

However, RIDC official Naresh Sharma said it was just rumour that the work was not being done properly and the norms were violated.

Arguably, the project entails an environmental cost – as many as 11,606 trees were laid down for the widening of the road.

In all, 33 months have been granted to Delhi-based Som Dutt Builders to finish the project, which was over in July 2012. The Road Infrastructure Development Corporation (RIDC), the executive agency of the project, has fixed a fresh deadline of March31st, 2014 for the completion of the project.

The issue of the shortcomings in the widening of the road was also raised in the Himachal Assembly a few months back. Now the road has been declared fit for plying the traffic within the speed limit of 40-45 km per hour.

The villagers had also raised their objection to narrow turns of the road.


Draft of ‘Road Safety Policy’ ready for cabinet’s approval

December 17, 2013



LUCKNOW: The draft for ‘road safety policy’ conceived in early July by the externally aided projects department of GoUP is finally ready for cabinet approval after rounds of deliberations and suggestions from various departments concerned like home, transport, health, education and PWD etc.Madhukar Jetley, advisor, externally aided projects department, GoUP shared the information on sidelines of a ‘Multi-sector Road Safety Workshop’ organised in association with the World Bank team in Lucknow on Monday.

“The draft is ready and would soon be sent to the cabinet for approval. We have proposed certain modifications in the lead agency, ‘UP Road Safety Council’. Now, the chief minister has been made its chairman and the chief secretary as the secretary of council.” He said the council didn’t have teeth so far and was rather acting as an advisory body. By making the CM as its chairman, the council hopes to have greater power to enforce laws. Also, it has been decided that the council would meet every month to review the progress on road safety.

Transport commissioner, Rajneesh Gupta was also present at the event who compared road accident statistics of India with that of the world. He said the year 2011 touched new heights of road mortalities in India, making it surpass China in total number of road accidents. Presently, India has the highest number of annual road deaths in the world. More than 6 million accidents have been reported in last one decade.

Unfortunately, UP is a significant contributor to this figure. Every year, more than 20,000 people are killed on the roads of UP. To tackle this grim situation, UP government is considering of creating a road safety policy on traffic management in the state. If so happens, UP could probably be the first state in the country to come up with its own road safety policy.

Amid deliberations, it was found that there is an urgent need to overhaul road infrastructures in the state to minimize accidents. The transport department claimed that due to ‘inadequate funds’, they are unable to repair roads of the city. It has sought 70% share in the enforcement money which flows from challans every year to create ‘dedicated road safety funds’ to develop road infrastructures of the state.

Officials said every year, the transport department earns around Rs 220 crore and the police earn Rs 60-70 crore from challans. All this money flows to the state treasury leaving little funds for development works. If 70% share is given back to them, they can utilize it in developing better infrastructures.

As per recommendations of Sundar Committee on Road Safety and Traffic Management, officials pointed out that once roads become safer, number of accidents and violations would significantly reduce thereby decreasing funds. Officials suggested that the cess earned on petrol and diesel in Uttar Pradesh by GOI can be given back to the state to compensate for the depleting funds.

The externally aided projects department announced that it is working in coordination with the World Bank to develop standard roads in UP. The project would first target roads of prime use and the ones which suffer from maximum traffic congestion. These would be national and state highways including PWD roads in the state.

The project involves engineering improvements in high-risk corridors and focus on safety needs of vulnerable road users like children and pedestrians. It aims to introduce effective enforcement on high-risk safety behaviors like speeding, non-wearing of safety belts, drunken driving and driver’s fatigue. It would review vehicle safety standards too, especially safety of heavy motor vehicles and public passenger services. It would also attempt to ensure more effective response to accident victims, emergency care and their long-term rehabilitation.

Further funds to support Indian roads

December 17, 2013

Written by Helen Wright – 16 Dec 2013

World BankWorld Bank

The World Bank has approved a US$ 175 million loan to improve connectivity in the state of Gujarat.

The funds will go towards the Second Gujarat State Highway Project, which aims to improve 635 km of the road network passing through 16 districts within the state, particularly the underdeveloped eastern tribal region.

“This project will build on our long engagement in the road sector in India by connecting small and remote habitations in the lagging tribal regions of east Gujarat to the mainstream,” said Onno Ruhl, World Bank country director for India.

The latest funds come after a string of World Bank loans supporting the development of India’s roads this year, including US$ 660 million awarded in October towards India’s National Highways Interconnectivity Improvement Project and the Rajasthan Road Sector Modernisation Project.

In March, the World Bank said it planned to continue its level of annual assistance of between US$ 3 billion to US$ 5 billion a year to India over the next four years with the aim of boosting development in low-income states.



IDSA COMMENT- Border Roads Organisation in the North-East: Need for Priority

December 17, 2013

Gautam Sen


The Defence Minister of India had assured the Parliament in May 2012 that 82 strategic roads in the north-east were being double-laned, as priority, to provide effective logistical facility to India`s defence forces in the Arunachal Pradesh border with China. India’s road network in the region constructed and maintained by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) involves nearly 11700 km of roads. BRO was conceived and raised in 1960 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with the objective of speedy development of road network and infrastructure in the northern and north-eastern border areas of India. A substantial part are General Staff (GS) roads, i.e., roads which primarily serve logistical needs of the defence forces and are funded by the Union Ministry of Surface Transport (MOST) budget while the others are roads of economic and strategic importance (assets of the states) constructed with non-MOST funds but within the purview of the BRO.

The importance of the road network in the north-east needs no emphasis. India is now raising the 17 Mountain Corps at Panagarh in West Bengal to augment its strategic strike capability vis-à-vis China. The BRO is the key instrument to realise the road network objective and provide the required logistical capability to this Corps. But is the BRO adequately attuned towards achieving this objective?

According to an official testifying in the Parliament on the 8th Report of the Standing Committee on Defence (2009-2010), “…two years back the philosophy of our nation was that we should not make roads as near to the border as possible. That philosophy is telling today very clearly as to why we do not have roads. It is only two or three years back that we suddenly decided a change of philosophy and said no, we must go as far forward as possible.”1 This Parliamentary Standing Committee Report had succinctly summed up the hiatus between the strategic needs of India and concomitant priorities and actual functioning of the BRO.

The Ministry of Defence had then indicated to the Committee that more funds would be allocated to the BRO and the organization was to be provided with adequate manpower.(2) The fact, however, is that the BRO does not suffer from any resource constraint and also has an enabling organizational structure, with its functionaries having adequate administrative and financial powers. The BRO`s expenditure on GS works has increased from Rs 830 crores in 2003-04 to Rs 2773 crores in 2012-13.2 However, the BRO could spend Rs 2773 crores only in the last financial year of its budget (BE) allocation of Rs 3300 crores on GS works.3

The BRO project chief engineers execute their projects by engaging hired civilian labour in the construction companies. The availability of labour with the task forces and the construction companies is not an issue. The chief engineers have institutionally an internal financial advisory support element and are vested with full powers to decide on the labour rates. In other words, neither fund availability nor manpower resources may be deemed as constraints for the BRO in achieving its GS works targets. The apparent shortfall in the BRO`s performance in relation to the logistical needs of the armed forces, is therefore, required to be carefully examined.

As a line organization, i.e., an organization which implements programmatic functions, the BRO has had a degree of autonomy in its administrative and financial matters. The availability of financial resources over the years has been substantial and incremental. At times there may have been less allocation of funds in the short-term, in relation to the estimates of the works planned for implementation but this, however, has to be viewed in the backdrop of an apparent disconnect between the formulation of annual plans of the BRO and its executing capability. Environmental constraints by way of local socio-political milieu-generated pressures and related governmental clearances have also occasionally militated against the BRO achieving its targets and security objectives. The above referred Parliamentary Standing Committee had observed that in 2010 the BRO was faced with a situation wherein, within its present capability, the planned quantum of GS works was beyond its executing capability. The present situation does seem to be much different. In this backdrop, there is a view in the higher echelons of Ministry of Defence that the BRO chief engineers of their projects take on the responsibility for executing other than GS works, i.e., works for other state governments, civil departments but only with prior administrative approval of the Centre. This will prevent the BRO from spreading its resources too thin and at the expense of the GS works/India-China Border Roads (ICBRs).

Without a focused approach and judicious prioritization, the BRO may not be able to achieve its Long-Term Perspective Plan-1, which involves the construction of 61 ICBRs (based on the India-China Study Group Report) involving a total road length of 3394 kilometers estimated at more than Rs 6500 crores. This would be to the detriment of India`s security, particularly when a remote county, Medog in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has been recently connected by an all-weather road with Zhamag, a place bordering Arunachal Pradesh, with much fanfare.4

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.



New service road at Porvorim by May 2014

December 16, 2013


PANAJI: The PWD is building a 1.5km long two-lane service road at Porvorim – starting from the teachers’ training college up to journalists’ colony. The cost of the project is 2.5 crore and it is expected to be completed by May 2014.

PWD sources said that there are a number of internal roads intersecting the national highway-17 along this 1.5km stretch and traffic from these internal roads enters the NH17 causing disruption to the smooth flow of traffic. Once the service road is commissioned, all the internal traffic will move on to the service road and join the national highway only at the roundabout near the journalists’ colony where the service road joins the highway.

 Similarly, traffic coming from Panaji and heading towards internal roads will take a right turn at the journalists colony roundabout to take the service road.

Each lane of the two-lane service road will have a width of 3.75m plus a footpath of 1.5m on one side. The service road also has provision for utilities including electrical and other cables, sources said.



Interchange with flyovers to end woes at Dumad crossroads

December 13, 2013


VADODARA: Motorists will no longer have to face the nightmare when they reach the Dumad crossroads on the national highway in the city. The junction also lead to frequent accidents and figured in the list of places prone to accidents prepared by the city police.

The intersection on the national highway has roads leading to the city, Vadodara-Ahmedabad Expressway and the Savli road. Motorists had to be careful while negotiating the intersection due to traffic movement in multiple directions. The intersection was also a busy one and witnessed movement of heavy vehicles.

Officials at the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) said that the present ‘at grade’ junction will be completely done away with. An interchange with two integrating flyovers at Dumad and Vadodara has been planned to meet the growing traffic demands of people travelling from and to Savli, Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Surat directions at this junction.

The proposed flyover is having six arms and service roads are planned to get access to this interchange. Sources said that it was expected that the work would be completed within two years. The work is a part of the six laning of Ahmedabad-Vadodara Section of the NH-8.

Union minister of state for road transport and highways Dr Tushar Chaudhary will lay the foundation stone kicking off the work on the intersection. Chaudhary will also inaugurate and an electronic toll collection plaza at Vadodara toll booth of the Vadodara-Ahmedabad Expressway. Electronic toll collection is based on the Radio Frequency Identificaiton (RFID) technology.

A RFID tag that will essentially be a prepaid tag will be affixed in the upper central portion of the vehicle’s windscreen. It will work as a prepaid toll account and there will be automatic toll deduction when a vehicle crosses a toll plaza. The system was launched earlier this year at Mumbai.

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