Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Feb 25, 2002
Government - Policy
AP road privatisation going nowhere
J Nanda Gopal
THE development of the road infrastructure in Andhra Pradesh is not progressing as expected because of several factors, the most important being the non-availability of funds. The State Government's efforts to involve private parties have not yielded results. Private road builders feel discouraged at the long gestation period and the limited prospects of the recovery of their investments.
The road density in AP is 0.70 km per sq km, and 293 km per one lakh population. This indicates that the road network in the State needs to be expanded and improved substantially to bring it on a par with the national and international levels.
Road projects comprise laying new roads, upgrading existing stretches and connecting the rural areas. These works are executed by the Roads and Buildings (R&B) Department, the Andhra Pradesh Road Development Corporation (APRDC) and the Panchayat Raj Department. The funds for the road projects come only through budgetary allocations. As the allocations are too small to meet the growing demand, the Government has sought loans from the World Bank to meet at least a part of the target in road construction.
The pressure on improving the condition of the roads has become pronounced with the State going aggressively for second generation reforms to attract direct foreign investment (FDI).
In all, the roads under the R&B Department stretch 64,557 km, comprising 4,104 km of national highways, 7,952 km of State highways, 34,618 km of under major district roads and 17,883 km of rural roads. In addition, there are 103,814 km of rural roads, 17,752 km of municipal roads and 8,400 km of projects and forests roads.
Lane-wise, 94 km are four-lane roads, 10,145 km two-lane roads, 3,843 km intermediate-lane and 50,475 km single-lane. Surface-wise, 46,215 km are black-topped, 12,894 km metalled and 5,448 km non-metalled.
According to a survey, AP is losing nearly Rs 600 crore every year by way of high vehicle operating cost, delays in travel, and accidents caused mainly by the poor condition of roads. The construction of bridges is also the responsibility of the R&B Department which is according priority to the minor bridges in view of lack of funds for major bridges. For the current fiscal, out of the Rs 338.92 crore of grant, the department spent Rs 230.45 crore till December 22, 2001.
Of the total 4,544 km of roads taken up for renewal, work on 2,660 km has been completed. As many as 155 of 177 works on widening/reconstruction of culverts have also been completed. The State has identified 10,500 km of high priority roads based on traffic density and designated them as primary core network with a view to providing sustainable level of funding for construction and maintenance. In the rural road sector, 53,000 km of secondary core network has been identified for giving connectivity to each village.
Under the central road projects, according to Mr E. C. S. Peter, Chief Engineer (Roads), the work is apace to strengthen and widen roads and construction of bridges. National highway works are executed with the grants from the Central Government under Plan and non-Plan expenditure. The State highway projects are funded by the World Bank and of the Rs 500-crore allocation, works worth Rs 229 crore had been completed till October 2001.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development also gives grants for road works and of the Rs 85.60 crore allocated, works amounting to Rs 40.49 crore had been completed.
Mr V Murahari Reddy, Managing Director of APRDC and Ex-Officio Engineer-in-Chief of R&B Department, told Business Line that the bringing up the road infrastructure to a reasonable level would necessitate an investment of Rs 12,000 crore.
The capacity of roads, he said, was decided on the basis of public car unit. There were several factors such as the weak construction industry coming in the way of work execution.
Qualified contractors having skilled workmen were not many and some of them were busy in other States.
Land acquisition and shifting of facilities also posed problems in road works. Unless these problems are resolved in a concerted manner by all the departments concerned, delays are inevitable, Mr Murahari Reddy said.
The corporation was giving priority to the construction of arterial roads keeping in view the environmental and safety aspects. He felt that the constitution of a road authority for planning would go a long way in easing problems.
Road connectivity to the rural areas is provided by the Panchayat Raj Department but it works under the local bodies authority which has to allocate funds for the purpose.
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