Highway construction in India continues to face sluggish progress due to irregularities in the monsoon season, according to a report by Mint.
According to data from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, only 2,670 km of highways were completed during the first four months of the financial year. This represents just 20 per cent of the ambitious target of building 13,800 km of highways for the entire financial year.
The allocation of new road projects has also seen a steep decline, dropping from 1,975 km in the same period last year to 1,125 km.
A government official familiar with the situation explained to Mint that a series of factors, including the extended monsoon, affected construction. However, they expect construction to pick up in the year's second half.
Recent data from the Ministry also revealed that highway construction dropped to a mere 420 km or approximately 14 km per day in July, significantly lower than the 2,670 km achieved during April-July.
Although the figures for this year are slightly better than the 2,493 km constructed in the same period last year, experts anticipate challenges in maintaining this pace and achieving substantial progress this year, given the slowdown in construction and project awards in the run-up to general elections.
According to a report from the rating agency ICRA, highway project awards typically slow down in the last quarter of a financial year preceding elections when the model code of conduct comes into effect.
According to a report by Onmanorama, only four out of 24 projects that are a part of the National Highway 66 development programme have been completed in the state of Kerala so far. However, in this case the delay was reportedly caused by a "shortage in the availability of sand and stones".
As earlier reported by Business Standard, a report released in August by at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) conference on the road and highways sector emphasised the integral role of road infrastructure in stimulating economic growth, fostering investor confidence, generating employment, and enabling inclusive development.
The report also added that a projected global infrastructure funding of $3.7 trillion was required annually to keep pace with GDP growth. "The significance of continued expansion and strengthening of India's road network remains paramount", the report stated.
The government has raised its highway-building target for the current year, aiming to expedite infrastructure development ahead of state and central elections.
According to officials from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, as reported by Mint, the government has revised the highway construction target for the financial year 2023-24 (FY24) to 13,800 km, up from the previous target of 12,500 km. This exceeds the all-time high construction levels achieved in FY21 when a record 13,327 km of highway was built during lockdowns, averaging 36.51 km per day.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways now seeks to exceed 40 km per day in construction, a target that highway construction agencies will need to achieve in the remaining months of FY24 to meet the annual goal.