The Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway is an ambitious project of the Maharashtra Government which would connect 24 districts, 26 talukas and 392 villages from Nagpur to Mumbai, says Ashish Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, Public Works Department, Government of Maharashtra, in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of Elets News Network (ENN).
How is PWD contributing to the growth of Maharashtra?
Good roads are economic arteries of any region and provide an important link between production and consumption. For a country like ours, which is transitioning from a developing to a developed nation, development of roads is crucial, as they constitute the infrastructural backbone that connects farms and raw materials to industries and markets, makes tourism a viable business and act as economic prosperity corridors. The Public Works Department (PWD) of Government of Maharashtra is charged with operating, maintaining and improving specifically entrusted National Highways, all State Highways and major district roads along with bridges across the State. PWD, Maharashtra, thus, manages 90,947 km of Highways across the State. Our objective is to ensure that our road infrastructure is dependable, durable and safe.
The Public Works Department is also entrusted with other infrastructure works in the State like development of Smart Cities to improve the quality of life of citizens, repair and restoration of heritage structures and construction of various government buildings, including hospitals, schools, courts, office buildings and residences. These contribute significantly to the economy of the State.
“Navi Mumbai would see more infrastructure development in the coming years due to the new international airport and Mumbai Trans Harbour Link coming up soon.”
The Government recently announced to construct NagpurMumbai highway, what are the expansion plans for this project?
The Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway is an ambitious project of the State Government and would connect 24 districts, 26 talukas and 392 villages from Nagpur to Mumbai. It would boost agriculture and related activities, attract globally competitive manufacturing industries to the backward regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada and would lead to sustainable rural development. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the project is done and we are currently evaluating the Request For Proposals (RFP) for the project. The actual construction of the project is expected to start by the year-end.
Do you see any major challenges in the day-to-day operations of your department?
Yes, there are a few operational challenges. The major challenge that we face is in ensuring quality of road construction. It is difficult to award contracts based on Life Cycle Costs for government projects considering that the contracts are awarded on L1 basis. Consequently, the cost of maintenance increases exponentially if the initial construction is not done ensuring the best quality measures in place. We also face issues with enforcing contracts. Prolonged litigation, challenges of expeditious dispute resolution and lack of a well defined mechanism results in cost and time overruns very often.
What key projects PWD has in store for launching in the coming years?
We have decided to take up construction of 10,000 kms of roads on hybrid annuity basis this year. We would focus primarily on timely implementation of works awarded under this model and ensure that the existing road works are in good condition round the year. The Public Works Department is entrusted with the construction of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue off the coast of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea. We are targeting to complete this project over the next three years. The Bandra government colony is being planned to be redeveloped as a Smart City in the next couple of years, Versova Bandra Sea Link project, which is an extension of the Bandra Worli Sea Link and forms a part of the Coastal Road project in Mumbai, is also under implementation.
“Nagpur is picking up in terms of its infrastructural growth due to its central location in the Indian geography.”
Monsoon sometimes plays havoc on the infrastructure, what new measures has been adopted to counter this State?
We have undertaken structural audit of all the bridges for the first time in the State to reduce their vulnerability during heavy rains. In fact, we have dedicated an administrative vertical specifically for the maintenance of bridges to ensure safe commute across the State. We have also awarded annual maintenance contracts for the first time for maintenance of roads, which is a complete shift from the sporadic maintenance contracts that lacked accountability. We believe that these AMCs would ensure road quality throughout the year, irrespective of the weather.
Nagpur as a region is picking up really fast in terms of infrastructural growth, which other cities will pick up in this competition further?
Nagpur is picking up in terms of its infrastructural growth due to its central location in the Indian geography. The development of Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) would further promote growth of Nagpur as a major investment destination. Pune, Nasik and Aurangabad are also attracting new investments from major manufacturing giants. Regional connectivity would get a significant boost due to the Nagpur Mumbai Super Communication Expressway and bring most of the Tier-II cities close to Mumbai. Also, Navi Mumbai would see more infrastructure development in the coming years due to the new international airport and Mumbai Trans Harbour Link coming up soon.
What is the vision of your department for coming years?
The department’s vision for the coming years is to deliver on our commitments for building roads on time, while ensuring quality and cost efficiency, and bringing in greater transparency. We envisage each and every individual, be it from the remotest village of Maharashtra, to have access to good quality roads and achieve prosperity.