Despite second Covid wave, highway construction at 28 km per day in April

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and limitations on movement in most parts of the country, highway construction in April quadrupled this year to 853 km compared to the same month last year, which saw an entire nationwide lockdown.

The speed of construction was 28 km per day in April 2021, though as it declined by 61% month-on-month.

According to data by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), every implementing agency including the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), had built 210km of national highway in April previous year. In March 2021, a complete total of 2,189 km of highway were built.

Highway development reached an all-time high of 13,298 km in 2020-21 at a record speed of 36.4 km per day. In April this year, project awards also progressed to 311 km from 260 km as awarded last year.

Investigators attribute the report construction to a slew of industry-friendly measures that the government had taken proactively during the pandemic year, including those to assure better cash flow to the builders.

Credit Rating Information Services of India Ltd (CRISIL) told the media that despite the pandemic, NHAI granted projects of a total of 4,818 km last year- a three fiscal high.

NHAI has established an ambitious 4,600 km highway development target for the current fiscal. Previous fiscal, NHAI constructed a record 4,192 km, above from 3,979 km constructed in 2019-20, and 3,380 km in 2018-19.

CRISIL added that despite Covid-19 in the previous fiscal, the national highways sector did a great job, taking on higher project awards, construction, and traffic that exceeded after lockdown limitations decreased in the second half.

CRISIL said that the second wave of Covid-19 slowed this momentum, but it may not have a material bearing on growth for the current fiscal.