A look at India's ambitious infrastructure projects and how they compare with the rest of the world.
The Centre on Wednesday approved the first phase of the ambitious Bharatamala project, which involves construction of approximately 83,000 km of roads with an investment of Rs 6.9 lakh crore by 2022.
The project is set to create 9,000 km of roads marked as economic corridors, 5,000 km roads under the National Corridors Efficiency Program, inter-corridor and feeder routes measuring 6,000 km and coastal and port connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, expressways of around 800 km and 10,000 km of National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) roads, and border and international connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, marking a total 34,800 km of new roads.
The Bharatmala project will commence in Gujarat and Rajasthan and make its way to Punjab, pass through the Himalayan belt through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and finally halt at Mizoram.
Phase I makes up close to 0.8 percent of the existing length of roads in the country. India has the world's second largest road network after the United States.
The United States took up its largest road infrastructure project in 1956, according to the highway department's official website. This project was the springboard for the country to become the largest road network in the world till date.
As of date, the network spans to 6.47 million kilometres, which is about two thirds the length of the road network.
China, which is the second largest economy in the world, kick-started the most ambitious road construction project till date by promising it USD 113 billion of finance, according to a Quartz report.
Termed the “One Belt, One Road” project, it was conceived as a USD 5 trillion project that will span across more than 60 countries to replicate the connectivity between Asia, Europe and Africa along the lines of the ancient silk road.
A section of this project is the 3,000-km-long China-Pakistan corridor,(CPEC), which will involve investment of around USD 48 billion.
Although it is hardly 9 percent of the length of phase I of the Bharatmala project, this project would be a game-changer for China and Pakistan, as it would give China direct port access to the Gwadar Port.
India has decided not to join the OBOR development bandwagon due to the CPEC passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), raising issues of sovereignty, according to an Indian Express report.
According to the Sagarmala website, its main objectives are:
• De-bottlenecking and capacity expansion of existing ports and development of new greenfield ports.
The proposed greenfield ports are :Vadhavan (Maharashtra),
Sagar Island (West Bengal)
Paradip Outer Harbour (Odisha)
Cuddalore/Sirkazhi (Tamil Nadu)
Enayam (Tamil Nadu)
• Enhancing the connectivity of the ports to the hinterland, optimizing cost and time of cargo movement through multi-modal logistics solutions including domestic waterways (inland water transport and coastal shipping)
More than 150 connectivity projects at an estimated investment of more than Rs 2 lakh crore have been identified. These are:• Coastal Berths at various major and non-major ports
• 37 National waterways prioritized for development in the first phase
• Heavy haul rail corridor from Talcher to Paradip
• Connectivity to Dedicated freight corridors
• Last mile rail and road connectivity projects
• Major rail connectivity projects
• Freight friendly Expressway projects connecting the major ports
• Development of Multi-Modal Logistics Parks
• Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants (POL) Pipelines
• Developing port-proximate industrial clusters and Coastal Economic Zones to reduce logistics cost and time.According to the website, 14 such clusters have been identified.
• Coastal Community Development: Promoting sustainable development of coastal communities through skill development & livelihood generation activities, fisheries development, coastal tourism etc.
In comparison, China is the commercial shipping industry kingpin, with many of China’s ports featuring in the top 10 list of ports with the largest throughput in the world.
A Forbes list brings out seven out of ten of China’s ports as being some of the busiest in the world.
There is also the South China Seas controversy, where a Vox report states that China has been trying to secure maritime control over the South China Sea region. This is a region where 10 percent of the world’s fisheries and 30 percent of the world’s shipping trade sails through in between destinations.
A Financial Times report stated State-owned shipping giant Cosco bought Hong Kong’s Orient Overseas Container Line with a cool USD 6.3 billion to become the world’s third-largest container shipping group, falling behind Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Company at a competitive range.
Also, Cosco spent USD 20 billion buying ports overseas up till the month of June this year, which was double the amount they spent in the same time period last year.Thus, China’s aggressive maritime-infrastructure ambitions, for the better or for the worse, might outweigh India’s goals and objectives.