Highway construction fell by a fifth on year in 2021-22 at 29 km per day. The construction was far less than 40 km/day target set at the beginning of last fiscal. The achievement was also lower than the revised target of 33 km/day for the fiscal and 36.5 km a day achieved in 2020-21.
While highways have been one segment that has consistently been weathering the broader economy’s travails and even the pandemic shock in 2020-21, the fall in the pace of average daily construction in 2021-22 is mainly due to protracted rains and multiple cyclones that affected construction work in several southern states, analysts said. The second wave of the pandemic also hit construction.
Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, director, Crisil, said, “Given the backdrop of Covid and an extended monsoon, this is certainly good achievement and also this goes to show the depth of the sector in terms of execution capability. Few relaxations in terms of reduced earnest money deposit (EMD) helped developers in maintaining a healthy cash flow which aided in maintaining a healthy momentum.”
Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, national infrastructure committee, CII, said despite various odds such as prolonged rains, cyclones and Covid-induced restrictions, the FY22 achievement was really a commendable one.
Rajeshwar Burla, Group Head, Corporate Ratings, Icra, said, “The pace of execution has taken a beating due to unseasonal rains and cyclones in multiple geographies which also coincided with peak working season. While February and March were expected to be much better but the steep rise in input prices limited the ability of players to ramp up significantly; therefore, the productivity loss in Q3 could not be made up.”
In 2020-21, a total of 13,327 km national highway stretch was developed by all executing agencies, including the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
The initial higher target of constructing 14,600 km highways in 2021-22 was based on the assumption that the pace of construction in 2020-21 could be prevailed.
However, towards November-December last year, the ministry lowered the target to 33 km a day or 12,000 km for the entire 2021-22 fiscal as construction hit roadblocks, first by the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic and then prolonged rains and cyclones.
Though the construction target for the current fiscal is not immediately known, minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari, in a reply to a Parliament question, said that the ministry plans to construct around 28,391 km highways in 25 months, at a daily average of around 38 km, starting from March this year.