With the world closely aligning with the concept of global village, the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement have always stressed on building a sustainable connecting network that will not only enhance regional connectivity but will also bring development to the country. India, being one of the leading NAM nations in all its actuality, has adopted the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement as it was its founding member as well. India’s commitment towards the ideology of the Non-Aligned Movement has placed it at a position, revered by the world, in general and the NAM Member-States, in particular.
India in lieu with its NAM commitment of prioritising development of infrastructure as an important factor of growth and prosperity for the country, President Ram Nath Kovind, recently declared the Government’s massive development plan to build 35,000km of highways, by 2022, so as to lay a stronghold for urban infrastructure as well as generate employment, under the ‘Bharatmala Project’. This project will also include development of a total of 24,800km length of national highway, 10,000km residual roads under National Highway Development Project, about 6000km of inter-corridor and feeder roads, along with 5000km of National Corridors Efficiency improvements. The Bharatmala project will seek to improve connectivity on economic corridors, border areas and far flung areas so as to ensure free flow of cargo, in turn, ensuring boost in exports.
The Bharatmala project will connect 550 districts in the country to the National Highway linkages, for the movement of people and link them through larger networks to better facilities. The project also aims at focusing on the regional development, with special focus, on the North-Eastern states and balancing the development of inland waterways, as well. The launch of the project is to ensure that the roads are well-maintained and developed, for the better management of traffic and movement of cargo via national highways. Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highway, announced the cost of the Project to be approximately Rs. 5, 35,000 crores.
In addition to the Bharatmala Project, two more projects are being developed simultaneously for the sake of improved connectivity, which includes ‘the Sagarmala Project’ and ‘UDAN’ scheme. The Sagarmala project aims to link coastal areas and areas adjoining ports with a network of good-quality roads, with national highways; along with the development of highways, the government is also dedicatedly making an effort to connect smaller towns to railways, airways and inland waterways.
The Government’s priority for development that will be undertaken by this project is to balance the infrastructure with due accordance to green corridors, considering the climatic emergency that the globe is currently facing. Along with the roads, greenery has been made an integral and important part of highway and expressway projects.
The Bharatmala project has also made urban transport development its priority as it plans to introduce vehicles that will reduce pollution and run on the solar energy- available in abundance in the country. For this purpose, the proposal of introducing ‘Electric Vehicles’ is also underway, for which the electricity supply, will be with the help of optimal utilisation of solar energy. This implies that India has not entirely focused on rapid concretisation and urbanisation but has balanced it with the cause of sustainability by adopting environment friendly ways, one of the core ethics of the Non-Aligned Movement.
The introduction of the Bharatmala project will also bring forth the present Government’s emphasis on encouraging citizens to use public transport so that pollution can be effectively reduced. The facility of ‘one nation, one card’ has also been launched to realise the dream of seamless mobility, for the convenience of the citizens. India’s first common mobility card, under this scheme, allows inter-operable usage of transport wherein the holders can pay for their bus travel, parking charges, metro, suburban railways, toll taxes, retail shopping and cash withdrawal – all, with just one card.
Another important aspect, under the Bharatmala project, is the idea of an inclusive growth of every region in the country, which includes better connectivity of villages and far-flung areas to the highways, as well as, generation of proper employment opportunities for the sake of economic growth, of each strata of society. With the development of national highways and expressways, the villages will gain more connectivity and have better access to world-class infrastructure and state-of-the-art amenities. Modern amenities like gas-grid and I-ways are also being developed, simultaneously, with full force to encompass piped natural gas for domestic fuels and compressed natural gas for transportation. Encouraging the use of bio-fuel has been highlighted, with the development of the Bharatmala project so that the targeted 270 crore litres for ethanol blending, can be achieved, that is crucial in reducing environmental pollution, another important facet of the Non-Aligned Movement.
During the second phase of Bharatmala project, the Government is set to build 3000km of expressways, undertaken by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Keeping in mind that the construction of expressways may hold close alignment to roads that pass through national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to hamper movement of animals, NHAI asked consultants to avoid any such road alignments close to national parks, and if required “to create a longer road or bypass” so that there is no disruption of existing natural forest. NHAI consultants have also been advised to incorporate provision of separation of local traffic, especially for vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, with road-crossing facilities located at walking distances. Such considerations have been made keeping in mind the deadly road accidents that occur every year leading to loss of life, for people.
The Bharatmala project is the second largest highways construction project in the country, with such abundant funding and investment, aimed at better connectivity, smoother mobility and stronger economic growth and development.
This project is also keeping an environmental conscience and paying sufficient attention to green corridors for the sake of maintaining the greenery, along with urbanisation. This way, there will be an equilibrium that will be maintained between infrastructural development and environmental upkeep. The Bharatmala project in all its actuality is set to fulfil the promise of sustainability as envisioned by the Non-Aligned Movement.