The NHAI Crisis Part 1: How many roads do we need?
As per media reports, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has racked up debt of Rs1.78 lakh crore and contingent liability of at least twice that amount.
 
It means theoretically we are looking at about Rs5 lakh crore debt and contingent liabilities. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked NHAI to stop building roads till the solution to funding problem is found. So, is it a cause for worry? How should we fix NHAI? The problems and issues with NHAI are multi-fold. In the next few articles we will dissect the problems facing NHAI, the causes and solutions to these problems. We will also analyse the fundamental problems with our transportation policy. 
 
It is not Roads but Transportation that is important
 
Roads are but one piece of the transportation infrastructure. Ultimately, the objective of transportation is to move people and goods over long distances in a cost and time effective manner. 
 
World Bank Indicator called logistic performance ondex (LPI) helps measures the effectiveness of transport infrastructure. It is the weighted average of the country scores on six dimensions: efficiency of the clearance process (i.e., speed, simplicity and predictability of formalities) by border control agencies; quality of trade and transport related infrastructure (e.g., ports, railroads, roads, and information technology); ease of arranging competitively priced shipments; competence and quality of logistics services (e.g., transport operators, and customs brokers); ability to track and trace consignments; timeliness of shipments in reaching destination within the scheduled or expected delivery time. 
 
Germany is the top performer in LPI for 2018 with an overall score of 4.1/5. For comparison, India’s overall score was 3.18/5. 
 
In general, developing countries like China and East Asian tigers hover at around 3.4 mark whereas developed countries are stacked around 4.0 mark. 
 
In a nutshell we can deduce that at same level of infrastructure Germany is able to deliver much better value for logistics. 
 
There are two important take-aways from this. First, no matter how many roads we construct, there is need for supporting soft infrastructure so that the benefits of better roads, railways and ports can evident.
 
Second, all the infrastructure needs to work in an interconnected manner. Thus, there must be effective feeder routes for cargo and people terminals in roads, railways, ports and airports. And the information support should also make transit easier.
 
Road Infrastructure has Two Roles
 
If we imagine transport network as series of hub and spokes, first role refers to trunk routes represent hub-to-hub transport and second role refers to last-mile routes representing the spokes. 
 
In the first role, roads work as an alternative form of transportation between hubs.
 
These hubs can be connected by alternate modes of transport as well. However, India relies more on road transport for trunk haulage than other countries. Other countries use waterways (inland and coastal) and railways as main drivers. 
 
To offset the trunk haulage part of the problem, NDA1, under prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee embarked on Golden Quadrilateral project. The project involved making highways connecting the four corners of the country AND two additional roads along the diagonals (East-West and North-South links). NHAI operates in this phase of the transportation network.
 
The last-mile road infrastructure helps all modes of transportation. Thus, you can go to another city by train or by air, but to reach your home, the final part of journey will be made by road. The same is case with goods. The goods may be moved by land (trucks), rail or ship or air, but their last mile journey will be made on road. Thus, last mile road infrastructure is most critical part of the puzzle. 
 
How many roads do we have?
 
Indian road network density is about 1.8 km/ sq. km. For comparison sake, Germany is 1.8, France is at 1.51, UK is 1.64, China is 0.51 and United States is 0.70. For smaller city nation of Singapore, the density is 4.8 while dense Belgium has 5.0. 
 
However, we must be careful in interpreting these numbers. The data simply says length of road. Ideally, lane-kilometres is a better measure. Reporting by various countries may have different units (i.e. km vs lane-km) and hence create discrepancy. 
 
So, does India have more roads than we need?
 
Actually, no. Indian roads suffers from various shortcomings.
 
First, road network depends on density and dispersion of settlements. Thus, China where most of population is concentrated along the east coast can do with lesser road networks. In terms of geography, density and dispersion of population India is closer to European countries than to US or China. 
 
Second, many of the roads, while technically roads, are not usable. Therefore, in many cases it was found that transporters prefer longer routes because they take less time. 
 
Third, Indian efficiency of connectivity is not high. In many cases, the last mile connectivity is missing or grossly inadequate. Ideally, municipal corporations should be developing these roads. However, central government has decided to build some of them under the Bharatmala project.
 
Finally, there are several design inconsistencies. For example, on a single highway, the number of constructed lanes itself and the number of lanes available for traffic keeps changing.  To add to that, the changes are abrupt creating choke points.
 
There are inadequate shoulder lanes for breakdowns, not enough buffer zones at turning points etc. 
 
We need more road projects
 
Despite the number of roads already existing, we need more roads. A large part of this requirement will come from improving old-existing roads, widening them, adding services along the roads.  Some additional hub-to-hub connections will have to be established. In that sense, Bharatmala project is a welcome initiative.
 
We need to bring a more practical perspective to the road infrastructure. It isn’t about simply paving the roads. The number of services needed to support modern road infrastructure is numerous. If we have to improve our performance on LPI index itself, we need to upgrade customs infrastructure, port infrastructure, operator training etc. These, while not directly under the purview of NHAI or road development body, are essential pieces of puzzle.
 
In the next article we will discuss how to manage road projects the right way.
 
(Rahul Prakash Deodhar is a private investor and Advocate, Bombay High Court. He can be reached at [email protected], on twitter at @rahuldeodhar or at his website www.rahuldeodhar.com.)
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    COMMENTS

    Baskaran

    2 weeks ago

    I just returned from USA after visiting my children who are in seattle and Chicago. 8 lane roads criss cross the huge country carrying massive traffic and
    automobiles with a speed of 1 mile per minute barring peak hours. These roads were built in 1930 to 50 s. Now they are crying that US is lagging behind China by 50 years in infra. Where is India? In stead of creating a scare on huge debts give constructive solutions to monetise the assets. When the private sector is not willing to invest due to various reasons Government has to chip in. Give creative and innovative ideas in fund raising in stead of
    crying hoarse on debt. It is inevitable if we have to develop.



    REPLY

    Ranbir Lamba

    In Reply to Baskaran 2 weeks ago

    Bribe is deep rooted virus & Babus are never punished. To remove virus pass law like China. Take bribe & face firing Squad. Dereliction of duty punishment hard labour for life .
    Then see at 40% of budget all infra are made to withstand 100 years.

    No NPA no debt will exist

    Gur Amrit Bhalla

    2 weeks ago

    Is there any doubt on this issue???!!! India desperately needs all new roads, we cannot commute for lack of good roads connecting the country. There are innumerable accidents, deaths on our tight and potholed roads. If you add more transport vehicles the choked, broken 16th century roads will become worse and what takes us now 6 hours to do 100 KM's will start taking 12 hrs and we will then curse our government. We've suffered for 70 years please give us proper international level roads now, we pay honest taxes for "toilets, gas connections, Jan dhan yojanas, assistance to lower classes" PLEASE all we request you is for good roadsare so we can smile and travel.

    Ramesh Poapt

    2 weeks ago

    quality... more important than km. is it compulsion?!!

    Ranbir Lamba

    2 weeks ago

    Haphazard creations & lack of control leads to disaster. Better to move the ladder step by step rather then spread network all over. Now none of roads will be completed & money almost sunk at point of no return. Catch 22 situation

    As per media reports, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has racked up debt of Rs1.78 lakh crore and contingent liability of at least twice that amount.

    It means theoretically we are looking at about Rs5 lakh crore debt and contingent liabilities. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked NHAI to stop building roads till the solution to funding problem is found. So, is it a cause for worry

    REPLY

    Gur Amrit Bhalla

    In Reply to Ranbir Lamba 2 weeks ago

    I agree with Ranbir Lamba it is completely a haphazard situation. Construction is underway everywhere, roads are incomplete, before completing a patch they break everything, schedules are not followed, money is siphoned away, contractors leave the job incomplete and run away. The process needs strict monitoring both for quality, responsibility and completion. Even an ordinary village child will tell you this even they know what is happening. Contracts should be given to big
    companies. Once punitive action is applied to delayed projects, bad construction things will change. As of now crores of rupees of our country's good money has gone down the drain. Our country needs a new minister and officers of "Vigilance" to really stop corruption which is still rampant.

    Ranbir Lamba

    In Reply to Gur Amrit Bhalla 2 weeks ago

    Sack Babus + black list contractor. Recover cost from Babus & contractor as the projects have been left half way. Recover cost from contractor

    Over half of Maharashtra MLAs have criminal cases
    More than half of the sitting MLAs in Maharashtra have declared criminal cases against themselves, as per an analysis by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Maharashtra Election Watch (MEW).
     
    Of 275 sitting legislators analysed, 158 MLAs (58 per cent) have declared criminal cases against themselves.
     
    ADR and MEW have analysed the criminal, financial and other background details of 275 of 287 sitting MLAs
     
    Of these MLAs, 110 (40 per cent) MLAs have declared serious criminal cases, three MLAs have declared cases related to the murder and 14 MLAs have declared cases related to attempt to murder.
     
    Coming to the party wise break up of criminal cases against MLAs, 72 or (62 per cent) out of 117 MLAs are from BJP, 46 (75 per cent) out of 61 MLAs belong to Shiv Sena, 14 (35 per cent) of 40 MLAs are from Congress and 4 (67 per cent) out of 6 Independent MLAs have criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.
     
    A huge chunk of legislators are in the eight figure bracket. Of 275 sitting MLAs analysed, 239 (87 per cent) are crorepatis.
     
    The party-wise crorepati MLAs include 99 (85 per cent) of 117 MLAs from BJP, 51(84 per cent) out of 61 MLAs from Shiv Sena, 37 (95 per cent) of 39 MLAs from NCP, 36 (90 per cent) out of 40 MLAs from Congress and 5 (83 per cent) out of 6 Independent MLAs have declared assets valued more than Rs 1 crore.
     
    The average assets per MLA for BJP MLAs is Rs 11.45 crore, Shiv Sena MLAs is Rs 6.83 crore, Congress MLAs is Rs 8.36 crore, 39 NCP MLAs is Rs 10.56 crore and 6 Independent MLAs have average assets of Rs 12.80 crore.
     
    The top three MLAs with highest assets are BJP's Mangal Prabhat Lodha from Malabar Hill constituency in Mumbai with total assets of Rs 198 crore, Abu Azmi of the Samajwadi Party from Mumbai with total assets of Rs 156 crore and BJP's Jagdish Tukaram Mulik from Pune with assets of Rs 104 crore.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    COMMENTS

    shadi katyal

    2 weeks ago

    When nation was ,we had a large number of illiteracy and yet more educated leaders with degrees in Law etc. Unfortunately as the time passed we have more illiterate and criminals running the nation and parties willingly give tickets to un educated criminals as they can bring muscle;s and money and we call it democracy .
    No nation can develop unless there is Law and Order but our Law is on the mercy of these criminals.
    Democracy as we knew has ended and now criminal elements are exploiting the nation. Indian Parliament has more BJP criminals than ever before but neither the Election Commission nor the SC justices have any power to speak up and nation is going down hill at faster speed .AS ruling party become one party govt e can kiss goodbye to any human rights

    Praveen Sakhuja

    2 weeks ago

    WHY surprise? Every poper joinig any political party has financial riswe to multi crores within a short period is a naked fact. Every MLA is rqeuired to face criminal cases if he has to show his superiority in party. So it is an additional quaification for politician to have more number of criminal cases may be of hgh density or low, Murder cases and other criminal activities> they all are fortunate that even after such expsoures roam about in masses with head high and NO one to punish those. Whereas if any theft is committed by any ordinary citizen, he is made to sell all his belongings to save self 1st from police, then from court and finally from family. This is known as ACHEE DIN OF RAM RAJYA. Bolo Jai Shree Ram.

    National Green Tribunal Seeks Action Plan from Pune Municipal Corp, PCMC & PMRDA to Clean Up Rivers or Pay Rs1 Crore Penalty Each
    The flash floods in Pune last week, which left 22 people dead (some were washed away, while they were driving their vehicles), again brings out the frightening hazard caused by indiscriminate dumping and encroachment into the blue lines of the rivers. The consequent narrowing of river banks has reduced the depth of river beds leading to life threatening flash floods.
     
    On 26 September 2019, the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s Principal Bench at Delhi, ordered that an action plan should be chalked out within a month by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (PMRDA) to remove all encroachments and debris in the river. The municipal corporations are liable to pay a penalty of Rs1 crore each in case they fail to do so.
     
    Noted civic activist, Sarang Yadwakar had filed a petition, against dumping of construction materials on the flood plains of the rivers flowing through Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad cities, particularly the Mula Mutha River. In his petition, he stated that despite an order of the NGT on 27 March 2015, prohibiting construction of any kind within a distance of 50 meters from the Blue Line of rivers, 12 instances of encroachments have taken place in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.
     
     
    There is a decrease in the discharge carrying capacity of the rivers, creating a flood situation because of:
     
    • Unauthorised constructions/ encroachments along the river course and the flood zone due to dumping of debris, soil, murum and construction and demolition waste
    • Large quantities of solid waste being dumped along the rivers
    • Discharge of untreated domestic waste water and sewage
    • Untreated industrial effluents released into the rivers. 
     
    The three municipal authorities have been ordered to act immediately to remove all unauthorised construction within the prohibited areas and restore rivers to their original form. All drains and nallahs discharging untreated waste water and untreated industrial effluent be diverted to available sewage treatment plants (STPs) and common and combined effluent treatment plants (CETPs), to ensure that the untreated waste water and effluents are not discharged directly into the rivers; and also remove all obstructions caused to the rivers.
     
    The encroachments have shockingly spread to the almost the entire stretch of the Mula Mutha and Pavana Rivers and are very serious in nature. 
     
    Some examples of this are: 
     
    • Dumping of massive construction debris at Babasaheb Ambedkar Bridge at Pimple Nilakh, which is under PCMC limits in the River Mula; 
    • Encroachment on the right bank of Pawana River by dumping construction debris at bridge connecting Pimpri and at Pimple Saudagar, which is under PCMC limits; 
    • Dumping construction debris on both banks of Pawana River near the bridge connecting Pimple Gurav and Kasarwadi under PCMC limits; 
    • Encroachment on the right bank of Pawana River by dumping construction debris near Karmavir Bhaurao Patil Road, Sangvi; 
    • Encroachment at the confluence of Mula River and Ram Nadi by dumping huge amount of debris near the left bank of Mula River and Pimple Nilakh; 
    • Encroachment on Mutha Riverbed by way of dumping of huge quantities of soil on the left bank of Mutha River near DeccanGymkhana and behind Sambhaji Park; 
    • Multiple encroachments at Sangamwadi Road on the left bank of Mula-Mutha River starting from the confluence of Mutha and Mula; 
    • Dumping debris in Mula River at the bridge connecting Nanded Village to Shivane Village.
     
    Shockingly, on the left bank of Mutha River behind Dangat Industrial Estate, Mr Yadwadkar’s petition states that, “a huge chunk of land is robbed from left bank to right bank of Mutha River by shifting the entire course of the river towards the left from its original position.”
     
     
    Considering the seriousness of the violations, a Committee was constituted comprising the chief engineer, water resources, district collector, Pune; member secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and a senior scientist from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) regional office. 
     
    The MPCB carried out inspections upon Mr Yadvadkar’s complaint, validated his allegation and observed that, “It is necessary to remove the dumping or otherwise every a year flood disaster will happen…In future if encroachment is not stopped and the dump material is not removed within the blue line, a heavy disaster is likely to happen, river may change its direction of flow which would lead to heavy losses of property and living habitats.” 
     
     
    It also observed that heavy dumping of construction material “affects the flood carrying capacity of rivers and causes major obstruction to river flow”.
     
    As for the right bank of the Pavana River, “encroachment has been made by villagers by dumping huge quantity of debris, road asphalt, rubbish and murum. They have also put up stalls of various fabricated material. Due to this, natural cross section of river was totally disturbed at one side. This type of encroachment pattern is seen along both banks of Pavana River throughout length in the city area.
    In some areas, the natural flow of the Pavana River has been diverted, causing major obstruction to the river flow.”
     
     
    The MPCB further observes, “At Pimpale Gurav to Kasarwadi Bridge, besides dumping debris, PCMC is developing a 6,000 sq mt garden by constructing retaining wall on river bank and filling river flood plain up to road level. A temple, which is constructed on the left bank of the river, is causing major obstruction to the flow of the river.” 
     
    MPCB has recommended appropriate action against these encroachments by forming a committee of PMC, PCMC, PMRDA, commissioner of police and superintendent of police for appropriate action to remove the debris and to avoid the flood situation in future.
     
     
    The National Green Tribunal, in its order of 26th September concluded that, “based on observations made during inspection of Mutha, Mula-Mutha, Mula and Pavana rivers by the committee, facts mentioned by the applicants in their application dated 23 July 2019 are found correct. Due to these encroachments in the rivers, discharge carrying capacity of rivers is decreasing day by day and creating floods situation.”
     
    It has ordered that the PMC, PCMC & PMRDA to immediately start removing such unauthorised constructions/ encroachments from river course and flood zone in association with Water Resource Department, within a time frame chalked out jointly by the three authorities. And to implement the Town Planning Department’s GR of June 2016, “to use of satellite images and computer system to control unauthorized construction/encroachments.” 
     
    The three municipal authorities will have to pay a penalty of Rs1 crore each, if action plan has not been chalked out within a month of this order.
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is 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”.)
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    COMMENTS

    Nilesh Rokade

    2 weeks ago

    One crore penalty is like peanut to these municipality .. More strict law to be made with accountability .

    P M Ravindran

    2 weeks ago

    A right decision by the NGT. But I can't help adding that getting aright decision from a judicial body is more of a luck than winning a lottery.

    There is no doubt that the scenes of flood strike you straight than the equally or more hazardous pollution of fresh water sources.

    And Kerala, with its 44 rivers, is riddled with this kind of scourge for a long, long time. The 2018 and 2019 floods have also exposed the consequences of mismanagement like encroachment and dumping wastes too.

    I can recollect at least two instances when the Ombudsman for Local Self Governing Bodies in Kerala had directed the Palakkad Municipality to clean a fairly large pond and to stop draining sewage into it. It has not been complied with though it is more than a decade since the last order was issued. In fact neither the municipality nor the Ombudsman's office could provide the copy of the orders under the RTI Act.

    By the way, the municipality is the competent authority to prosecute those who pollute fresh water bodies.

    We are listening!

    Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
      Loading...
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email

    BUY NOW

    online financial advisory
    Pathbreakers
    Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
    online financia advisory
    The Scam
    24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
    Moneylife Online Magazine
    Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
    financial magazines online
    Stockletters in 3 Flavours
    Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
    financial magazines in india
    MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
    (Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)
    FREE: Your Complete Family Record Book
    Keep all the Personal and Financial Details of You & Your Family. In One Place So That`s Its Easy for Anyone to Find Anytime
    We promise not to share your email id with anyone