By Rupesh Dutta
New Delhi, Nov 24 - Continuing its initiative of reducing projects with the overburdened Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the resultant delays and cost over-runs, the government is transferring over 2,000 km of upcoming highway projects to the fledgling, state-owned National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), according to informed sources.
While the cost for the 20 important strategic and semi-strategic highway stretches have not been fixed, the estimates are expected to exceed Rs 25,000 crore ($4 billion), as the government pays Rs 11-13 crore per km for construction in the country's mountainous states.
Sources familiar with the initiative stated that of all the projects, NHIDCL is set to immediately take over 10 with a total length of 1,053.05 km while the remaining 957.44 km of roads will be taken over after field verification and recce, ascertaining readiness to take over for maintenance.
"The highway projects which the NHIDCL is set to take over from the BRO are in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur and Uttrakhand. The longest among these are 262 km Churachandpur-Tipaimukh, followed by the 170.88 km Jessami-Yanganpokpi, 129 km Kohima-Jessami, all in Manipur; a 115 km stretch between Dumro-Same Basti-Etalin is in Arunachal Pradesh," the sources said.
The other highway stretches to be taken over includes 75.54 km between Ghatiabagarh and Lipulekh in Uttrakhand; 56.13 km between Brahmkhund and Chowkam, 95 km between Seppa and Sarli, both in Arunachal Pradesh; 99.50 km between Gangtok and Chungthang, 27.80 km between Chungthang and Lachen and 22 km between Chungthang and Lachung -- all three in Sikkim.
While the NHIDCL will soon start working on the stretches once the formalities are complete, sources have said that the Prime Minister's Office is not happy with BRO, which has been proceeding at a snail's pace.
Earlier, a cabinet document circulated to central ministries noted that the BRO is overstretched and has been given work beyond its capacity and mandate.
"The BRO has started taking work beyond (its) size. Initially only for strategically important works, (it) later took the civil work as well," reads the cabinet note.
The document notes that the main object of the proposal was to expedite the implementation of road infrastructure projects in the country that would increase connectivity to far-off areas and further augment economic activities there.
Some of the delayed projects include the 220-km-long National Highway-53 in Manipur. The delay has escalated the cost to a whopping Rs 1,600 crore from Rs 1,100 crore, the document noted.
"Due to very slow progress, the road is proposed to be transferred from the BRO," reads the cabinet note.
The note has also suggested that the BRO adopt new technologies and also urgently resize its strength in terms of work force and avoid cost-escalation of projects.
Of the new projects, the remaining 957.44 km of highway stretches will soon be verified by the NHIDCL. Among these projects, 355.27 km lies in Jammu and Kashmir and its bordering areas with Himachal Pradesh.
The 297.60 km Darcha-Padam-Nimu stretch lies in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh while the 57.67 km Chokibal-Tangdhar-Chamkot stretch lies in Jammu and Kashmir. The Sumdo-Kaza-Grampoo 255 km stretch lies in Himachal Pradesh.
"The 52-km long LGG-Damtse-Yangtse, 56 km BGJ-Naga GG, 54 km TCC-Tasking and 47.38 km TCC-Maza are in Arunachal Pradesh, 65 km Gangtok-Sherthang-Nathula, 30.50 km Lachen-Kalcp and 42 km Sanklang-Toong are in Sikkim. NHIDCL will take over these projects once they are verified and their recce is done," said the source.