NEW DELHI, Dec 20 - When it�s about highways, Nitin Gadkari � the �flyover man from Maharashtra� � seems to know the way to take it to a new high and his latest is linking Delhi with Thailand for an over 4,000-km road trip in 2016.
�I don�t believe in empty words... What I say I do,� the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways said while listing out his priorities for the new year.
As he sought to implement a number of initiatives in the year passing by to expand the road network in the country and removing the bottlenecks, Gadkari said his target is now to take the road building capacity to 100 km a day.
�We are building 18 km a day at present from a mere 2 km a day inherited by us from the previous government,� said Gadkari who had earlier this year set himself a target of 30 km per day within two years. �We will meet our previously announced target of 30 km a day in March 2016,� he added.
�The way you travel to Mumbai on your car via Delhi, the same way you will be able to reach Thailand, hopefully, by the next year. It is a revolutionary work... People will not believe (now),� Gadkari told PTI in an interview here.
Talking about the progress made on various fronts in the roads and highways sector during 2015, Gadkari said projects worth lakhs of crores of rupees are being completed.
�Driving through India and its congested cities, towns and villages would be a breeze. Not only you can reach Bhutan and Myanmar through bigger, wider and better road network, but once the Chabahar deal in Iran is clinched, you will be driving all the way to Russia and Europe via Iran and Afghanistan once you reach Chabahar via sea or air from India.
�This is the dream for which the government is willing to pump lakhs of crores of rupees,� he said.
�Nothing is impossible,� said Gadkari who has been known as one of the key persons behind the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee�s ambitious �Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna� project. The �Flyover man from Maharashtra� tag comes from his work on creating a network of flyovers and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway before he came to the Centre.
�A trilateral pact between India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) is expected by March 2016,� Gadkari said while adding that the landmark Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Pact has already been inked with identification of 14 routes for passenger services and seven routes for cargo movement.
�Work on the USD 8 billion road connectivity BBIN project is likely to be completed soon with ADB funding,� he said.
Once BBIN and IMT are operationalised, a seamless vehicular movement between the SAARC and ASEAN nations will become a reality and �I hope that this will happen very soon,� he said.
He said India will soon begin work on building a sea-bridge and a tunnel connecting Sri Lanka, while ADB is ready to fully finance the Rs 24,000 crore project connecting Rameshwaram to Sri Lanka.
On domestic front, the targets include building up to 16 express highways, making Delhi congestion free by 2017 and laying a green canopy on thousands of kilometres of national highways. India has the world�s second largest road network.
�At least Rs 5,000 crore, one per cent of the Rs 5 lakh crore worth of road projects, will be spent on greening of the highways,� Gadkari said.
To transform India�s 96,000-km network of national highways (NHs) into green corridors, the government has come out with a �Green Highways Policy� under which it will be mandatory to set aside one per cent of the total project cost for plantation.
�I will transform India�s infrastructure in a manner that after five years, people would not be able to believe what they are seeing,� Gadkari said while listing out his �incredible-sounding� ideas.
Gadkari said he inherited Rs 3.8 lakh crore worth of stuck projects on account of land and environmental disputes. This forced developers into debt and the problem has been further compounded by the fact that 30 per cent of all loans are to the infrastructure sector.
A confident Gadkari however said the government is committed to providing at least 50 lakh jobs to people in the highways and shipping sectors. �Our government has already awarded projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore,� the minister said.
�Last year there were only five PPP projects. But this year, so far nine big PPP projects are starting and bids are over. We are doing 17 projects on hybrid model and many more would follow. We would contribute at least two percentage points to India�s GDP,� he said. � PTI