First highway project under Bharatmala by 2018-end : Gadkari

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"The programme will help connect 550 districts through national highways, compared with around 300 districts at present", Gadkari said.

He said its first phase includes 24,800 km of roads - economic corridors, border and coastal roads, and greenfield expressways.

The land acquisition process and detailed project reports for the scheme are underway and the Government is hopeful that the scheme would elicit a great response from the private sector, Gadkari said.

"Bharatmala programme includes development of 44 Economic Corridors, 66 Inter Corridor Routes and 16 Feeder Routes".

Gadkari said that the ministry is initiating a slew of measures to ensure expeditious implementation of the program.

The project also entails constructing 6,000 km long inter corridor and feeder routes, 2,000 km of border and global connectivity roads, 5,000 km to be upgraded under the national corridor efficiency programme, 800 km of greenfield expressways, 10,000 km under the national highway development programme and 2,000 km of coastal and port connectivity roads.

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"The government's decision to enhance spending in roads and highways, including port connectivity and border and cross-border roads, will have a big multiplier impact on economic growth", Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the CII, said. He also highlighted 185 choke points identified to decongest corridors.

Projects such as economic corridors and coastal roads and port connectivity, global connectivity, border roads, roads connecting economically important nodes, green field expresswayswill be brought under its aegis.

The government will fund Bharatmala project through market borrowings, central road funds, monetising government-owned road assets, and budgetary allocationBharatmala project through market borrowings, central road funds, monetising government-owned road assets, and budgetary allocation. The minister said multimodal freight movement via seven waterway terminals on river Brahmaputra. The project will transit through Bangladesh to improve the North-East connectivity.

Under Bharatmala, the Road Transport and Highways ministry will construct 9,000 km of economic corridors across the country.

This is the largest ever road construction project by Indian government. With this, 70 - 80 percent of freight will move along national highway (NH) as against the 40 percent at present.

"Money is not the problem", Gadkari said while stating that NHAI has a AAA rating which will help it tap the capital markets. "Each and every work will be through electronic tenders and the quality of highways would be such that they would see no potholes for the next 100 years", Gadkari said. Bharatmala Phase I - is to be implemented over a five years period of 2017-18 to 2021-22.

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