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Time for industry to embrace new tech for quality, cost-efficiency in infra projects: Gadkari

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NEW DELHI: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said industry players should adopt innovative methods and new technologies to improve cost efficiency and construction quality of infrastructure projects.

The road transport minister also warned cement players against cartelisation, black-marketing and profiteering.

“You need to reduce construction cost and improve quality. Cost reduction should be made without any compromise on quality,” he said while addressing an event on ‘BITU-CON 2020: BITUmen and Road CONstruction Industry’, organised by FICCI.

Gadkari, who also holds the MSME portfolio, said the industry can play a significant role in boosting India’s infrastructure through the aid of innovation and technology.

Industry players should look towards innovative methods of using waste like iron slag besides other material for use in infrastructure projects, the minister said.

Plans are afoot to reduce bridge construction cost through innovative technologies like promoting steel fibre in construction on the pattern of Malaysia and if successful that alone could save Rs 25,000 crore annually in bridge, Gadkari said.

Similarly, Niti Aayog has given green signal to Buldhana pattern of projects that have changed the face of some parts of Maharashtra, which entail excavation or dredging of ponds in drought-prone areas to ensure rain water harvesting and recharge of ground water, the minister said.

The dredging is done by the highways ministry free of cost in lieu of sand, deposits and aggregates to be used for highways construction, thereby reducing cost.

Gadkari said likewise technical parameters were being reduced to promote domestic players in infrastructure creation and cited example of Zojila tunnel, saying the government through change specifications has been able to reduce the cost of the project significantly at a time when it was demanded to enhance the original cost by about Rs 7,500 crore to Rs 11,000 crore.

“A meeting was convened to deliberate on the specifications which was attended by about 150 developers, consultants and other stakeholders. I had asked officials to reduce the technical qualification criteria besides financial qualifications without any compromise on quality,” he said adding that over Rs 4,000 crore was saved due to it and the tender has been awarded.

Gadkari said the project for which tenders were floated for three times earlier was ultimately won by Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL).

Among the three bidders in the race including Larsen & Toubro and Ircon International JV, the Hyderabad-headquartered company had quoted the lowest Rs 4,509.5 crore for the tunnel project, stuck for over six years now.

The project holds strategic significance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in May 2018 laid the foundation stone for the Rs 6,800 crore project, billed as the Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel, in Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking about bitumen, Gadkari said it was found that such roads got damaged soon and urged the industry to come forward with technical innovations and a 10-year defect liability.

At the same time, he warned cement makers to refrain from “black-marketing, profiteering and cartelisation” saying the highways ministry alone has a potential to buy cement worth Rs 1 lakh crore but cement makers despite repeated warnings were being indulged in wrongdoings.

He said given the quality of concrete highways his ministry was in favour of making it mandatory, but wrong practices by cement manufacturers prevented any such step.

The minister said that his ministry plans to take road building to more than 30 km a day and innovations and newer technologies were welcomed.

He also stressed the need for newer technologies for highways building in difficult terrains like Chardham where a Rs 12,000 crore project is underway to link Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

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