In India, roadways are one of the infrastructural elements that facilitate trade and commerce. Among all types of roadways, highways occupy special importance in the Indian context. Even though the national highways make up just 1.8% of all roadways in the country, they carry 40% of all trade.
Indian governments have been rolling out plans to revamp the highways sector and increase the number of highways for trade corridors. Bharatmala Pariyojana is one such mega infrastructure plan to connect all highway corridors in India, including all national highways in those corridors.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), an autonomous highway wing of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH), has been tasked with Bharatmala Pariyojna. The NHAI had started the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) to reshape the country’s National Highway network. The Golden Quadrilateral network and the North-South and East-West (NS-EW) Corridors are two renowned projects under the NHDP.
Despite these projects, the flux of freight movement on national highways has been increasing, making it difficult for the existing networks built under the NHDP to carry them without grid locking. The Bharatmala Pariyojana mega infrastructure project is being designed to solve this challenge. It will subsume all other similar corridor construction projects including the flagship NHDP.
Bharatmala Pariyojna has six objectives, which are:
National Corridor Efficiency Improvement
As mentioned earlier, the existing road networks are being incapacitated by the increasing traffic. Through Bharatmala, the NHAI is planning to widen road lanes and decongest the Golden Quadrilateral and NS-EW corridors.
Economic Corridors Development
The project will connect economically important production and consumption centres. Till date, around 44 corridors have been identified using engineering techniques.
Inter-Corridor and Feeder Routes Development
The Bharatmala project aims to provide last-mile connectivity, meaning, it aims to connect two economic corridors with one another through continuous and separate highway roads between their border regions, instead of letting it pass through the city or village or town.
Coastal and Port Connectivity Roads
This aims to boost economic development via harbour cities by connecting each port in India through highways. Till date, 4,100 km of highways has been identified for this.
Border and International Connectivity Roads
This will boost trade between India and the Eastern-half of the Subcontinent.
Around 1,900 km of green-field expressways are to be developed under the first phase of this project.
The Central government and the NHAI’s Bharatmala Pariyojna mega infrastructure project will connect 550 districts across the country via national highways, taking trade to every corner of India.