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NHAI facing major challenges on Tamil Nadu road projects due to shortage of construction aggregate, delayed clearances : Nitin Gadkari

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CHENNAI : Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari once again flagged the significant challenges in executing road projects in Tamil Nadu and sought the intervention of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin to address the underlying issues.

“We are facing major problems in Tamil Nadu. Our work has stopped. Through this programme, I request the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to review all the road projects and cooperate with us,” the Minister said

Gadkari particularly highlighted the issue of sourcing construction aggregate material and delayed forest clearances that are causing severe delays to the projects in Tamil Nadu. He was responding to a question on why NHAI is not undertaking big ticket road projects in Tamil Nadu like it is doing in many other states.

In December 2021, NHAI had announced that it was foreclosing at least four major highway projects in Tamil Nadu as the contractors were unable to procure soil for earthwork and have been waiting for months to get statutory clearances.

Gadkari attributed the inability of NHAI contracts to source construction aggerates to the bureaucratic hurdles and licensing system in the state.

“They are giving us permission for three months, and for another three months. In a bureaucratic system, this never works.” he noted

Gadkari also said that funding road projects is no longer a problem.

“We are ready to give ₹1,000 crore to Tamil Nadu and develop all types of road projects. I don’t have any problem,” the Minister added.

The Union minister praised the proactive approach of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He said that Kerala CM was helping the NHAI with quick decision-making and trying to accelerate land acquisition.

Gadkari also referred to slew of projects being executed by NHAI in Karnataka with the full cooperation of the state government.

Expressing optimism that CM Stalin will address the issue, Gadkari said that Tamil Nadu was an economic powerhouse and building better infrastructure will help increase exports and create more employment potential.

“We have already requested the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary to sort out the issues. If the cooperation is good from the State’s side, I am assuring that I will give a lot of priority to the development of road infrastructure in Tamil Nadu.” Gadkari said

Gadkari also pointed out the personal interest he took in pursuing port expansion projects in Tamil Nadu during his tenure as shipping minister.

Gadkari highlighted similar set of challenges in 2021

This is not the first time Gadkari has highlighted the challenges faced by NHAI and road contractors in Tamil Nadu in progressing with project execution.

In February 2021, Gadkari, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha to a question by DMK MP S. Gnanathiraviam, said projects in Tamil Nadu were delayed mainly due to land acquisition, non-availability of construction aggregates, poor performance of contractors, delay in environment/forest/wildlife clearances and public agitation for additional facilities.

Construction Aggregate Shortage In Tamil Nadu

Aggregates are the most basic material used in construction. They provide the foundation for roads, bridges, and buildings, while also making up over 90% of an asphalt pavement and up to 80% of a concrete mix. Aggregates are raw materials that are produced from natural sources and extracted from pits and quarries, including gravel, crushed stone, and sand. They are then combined with binding medium, like water, cement, and asphalt, to be used in construction projects.

Whimsical licensing regime, a corrupt ecosystem of politically connected contractors running oligopolistic model in construction aggregates and funding major political parties.

Lack of permission for quarrying blue metal and earth have often plagued the progress of National Highways projects. For instance, all NHAI projects in Kanyakumari district have come to a standstill as contractors are unable to source soil for earthwork as 19 quarries have been shut

Escalating cost of M-sand has hit the construction sector, particularly small-time builders.

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