The more the merrier is what roads and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari believes on ports, even if there is excess capacity. He also admitted to delays in award of road contracts, while saying the highway construction pace had increased to 22 km a day. "We are the fastest growing economy, our exports are rising?we need more ports and no new port is unviable," he said at the Economic Editors' Conferencehere.The Union Cabinet in July this year approved setting up of a major port at Enayam near Colachel in Tamil Nadu. A Special Purpose Vehicle will be formed for development of this port, with initial equity investment from the three major port trusts in the state — Chidambaranar, Chennai and Kamarajar. The SPV will develop the port infrastructure — dredging and reclamation, construction of breakwater, ensuring connectivity links, etc. The proposed Enayam port would entail an investment of about Rs 25,000 crore. And, a Rs 7,525 crore Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose port is being developed by the Gujarat-based Adani Group.
The Kerala government has expressed its concern over the in-principle nod to the Colachel project, only 30 km from its Vizhinjam port. It also described the central government's decision as "unviable" and has protested to the Prime Minister.
On highways, the government might not meet its target of awarding 25,000 km of projects in this financial year; only 18% of this much has been achieved. "Project clearances take one to one and a half years. This delays the award process, " Gadkari said. Land acquisition, environment and forest clearance is required before the award.
Road projects of 4,433 km had been awarded till October, of which 3,591 km had been constructed. The construction target of roads for the current year is 15,000 km.
Gadkari has earlier announced Rs 2 lakh crore investment for constructing expressways in the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Of these, projects worth Rs 30,000 crore are underway in UP. Officials said land acquisition cost was a challenge, this newspaper reported recently.
The Western Peripheral Expressway (Kundli-Manesar-Palwal) and the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (Kundli-Ghaziabad-Palwal) are among other projects delayed for over a decade. These are likely to be completed by December 2017. The projects would benefit Haryana and UP, opening rural and urban areas for developing commercial spaces and townships along the expressways, apart from generating revenue. The projects are also expected to improve air pollution levels in Delhi and decongest the national capital.