NEW DELHI: Focus on critical infrastructure building through an integrated approach, right from a number of strategic tunnels and bridges to 22 green expressways, is bound to place India in the league of advanced nations like the US, UK and Australia in the coming two years, union minister Nitin Gadkari has said.
Apart from a number of strategic tunnels and bridges being built across the length and breadth of the country, 22 green expressways at an estimated cost of Rs 3.10 lakh crore comprising 7,500 km are planned to be executed in the next couple of years, the road transport minister said.
He further said that talks are in advanced stage for building Rs 8,250 crore Chambal Expressway in Madhya Pradesh, a first of its kind in collaboration of the state government.
"To take India's infrastructure to the next level it has been decided to work on it in an integrated manner as per Prime Minister Narendera Modi's vision. Plans are afoot to tap full potential while building newer highways by laying optic fibre, transmission line and gas pipe lines," Gadkari told PTI in an interview.
The power ministry will come up with plans for transmission line while the IT ministry will give nod for optical fibre cable network, the minister said adding that similarly gas pipeline can be laid along the big roads that are being built.
These are planned along the proposed 22 green expressways, of which the work on seven including Rs 1 lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai Expressway has started.
"Given the pace of work on critical infrastructure including strategic tunnels, bridges and highways, I am confident that whatever work we are doing (in) coming next two years you will see a changed India.
"Roads, tunnel and bridges which we see in in the US, UK, Germany and Australia, the same kind of work will be seen in our country," the senior minister said.
Gadkari, who also holds the MSME portfolio, said the strategic Rs 2,379 crore Z-Morh Tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir, that stuck for long after it was abandoned, was cleared and is expected to be built soon.
The Z-Morh Tunnel along with the Zojila tunnel are designed to provide all-weather road connectivity to Jammu and Kashmir parts which remain closed during the winters due to heavy snowfall.
"Z-Morh tunnel work was stuck. I have cleared it. Work on Zojila tunnel will start in two months," Gadkari said.
Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL) has emerged as the lowest bidder for the prestigious Zojila Pass tunnel to provide all-year connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh union territories.
Among the three bidders in the race including Larsen & Toubro and Ircon International JV, the Hyderabad-headquartered company had quoted the lowest Rs 4,509.5 crore for the tunnel project, stuck for over six years now.
The project holds strategic significance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.
Besides, the minister said work was in full swing for Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, India's longest expressway at 1,320 km which is slated to reduce travel time between Delhi and Mumbai from 24 hours to 13 hours.
Apart from optic fibre, transmission and gas pipelines, a large number of industrial clusters are planned on its side, he said.
Stating that there have been some obstructions in execution of highway projects due to the coronavirus outbreak, Gadkari said nevertheless his ministry believed in converting this crisis into an opportunity and overcoming it.
The pace of execution of projects has been expedited, he said.
Chambal Expressway is proposed to be executed at a cost of Rs 8,250 crore and it could be a game changer for the poor and tribals living in far-flung areas of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, Gadkari explained.
The 404 km project providing cross-connectivity with the Golden Quadrilateral's Delhi-Kolkata corridor, North-South Corridor, East-West Corridor and Delhi-Mumbai -Expressway will prove to be the newest model of infrastructure development jointly between the states and the Centre, he said.
It provides an alternate route from Kanpur to Kota through Madhya Pradesh, and then it joins the Delhi-Mumbai corridor.
The minister also said that work is underway on Ram Janaki Marg from Ayodhya to Janakpuri including 370 km in Bihar at a cost of Rs 2,700 crore.
Of the 370 km in Bihar, construction of 220 km will be completed at a cost of Rs 1,300 crore by June 2021.
"We have completed about 80 per cent work on Kailash Mansarovar route and the remaining work is likely to be completed by April 2021," he said.
The minister had recently complimented the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for completing the work of road connectivity from Dharchula to Lipulekh, popularly known as Kailash Mansarovar Yatra route, which will ease the journey of pilgrims.
The newly built 80-km strategically crucial stretch connects the Lipulekh pass at a height of 17,000 feet along the border with China in Uttarakhand with Dharchula.
Gadkari also said that efforts are on to complete Rs 12,000 crore Chardham project by May-June next year by ironing out obstacles like forest clearances etc as early as possible.