Mountains… Valleys… Plateaus… Plains… Rivers… when a country is blessed with all these in abundance as part of its geological ecosystem it will be considered rich in natural resources. By the same measure, it also brings in the challenges of connecting these resources to ensure it translates into a meaningful contribution to the society at large – be it for the development of human civilization or for the socio-economic development.

India as a geography, though challenging, is endowed with a huge supply of natural resources. The northern part is environmentally secured by a Great Wall called the Himalayan Range which runs throughout the northern frontiers of India. The Indo-Gangetic plains are formed from the river systems of the Indus and Ganges. The plains formed from these river systems are extensive and is also known as the Great Plains. Three plateaus namely the Malwa Plateau in the west, the Deccan Plateau in the south and the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the east constitute the Central Highlands in India. The four rivers, Mahanadi, Godavari, Kaveri, and Krishna cut across the weathered mountains of the Eastern Ghats and drain the adjoining plains to finally meet the Bay of Bengal.

Says Mr. Ramesh C. Bawa, MD & CEO, IL&FS Financial Services Limited, “India provides vast growth opportunity for structural growth. But we need many mega infrastructure projects to make this growth possible in quick time and to be able to compete with the developed nations.”

Globally, India is looked upon as the ‘fastest’ growing economy on the planet. India’s infrastructure is set to overtake Japan by 2023 and China by 2050.  

Focus on Mega Structures

No doubt India needs next generation infrastructure. The Central Government is committed to invest heavily in the infrastructure sector, mainly highways, renewable energy and urban transport. The Road Transport & Highways Ministry has invested around Rs 3.17 trillion (USD 47.7 billion), while the Shipping Ministry has invested around Rs 80,000 crores (USD 12.0 billion) in the past two and half years for building world class highways and shipping infrastructure in the country.

A total of 6,604 km out of the 15,000 km of the target set for national highways in 2016-17 has been constructed by the end of February 2017, according to the Minister of State for Road, Transport & Highways and Government of India.

But for a country like India this is just the beginning. To be able to compete in the international arena, the country needs to have its infrastructure fully ready for the next phase of growth. Mega projects are the need of the hour to construct mega structures. Mega structures will lead to mega development and beyond.

The know-hows and the capabilities of Indian engineers were never in question. In fact, some of the mega structures constructed by the Indian engineers were truly considered as ‘engineering marvel’ for more ways than one. It would be ideal to recollect some of the mega structures that have helped the nation to reach the level where it is today and how they have created a ‘mark’ for themselves. Here we go… ‘Mega Opportunities with Mega Structures’ (MOMS)

MOMS @ Intercity connectivity
Mumbai is one city in the country that would gleefully accept any number of road connectivity projects that would save time and traffic for its people. That way Bandra-Worli Sea link project is like ‘straight from the heaven’ for Mumbaikars.

Bandra-Worli Sea link (Mumbai)
It is majestic… it is stunning… when an architectural wonder can solve people’s misery, then the project will be a stand-out success. The Bandra-Worli Sea link in Mumbai is an engineering marvel, spanning an arc of Mumbai coastline, which has led to considerable easing of traffic in the city.

The construction is a miracle of the Arabian Sea that has an imposing presence on the Western horizon of Mumbai. One can imagine the strength and might of the bridge given the fact that it weighs nearly 50,000 African elephants and the length of steel wires used in the project is equivalent to the circumference of the earth. In the city where time is more precious than money, this project has reduced the 45 minute journey from Bandra-Worli to a mere 8 minutes.

It is for the first time that cable-stay bridges have been attempted on the open seas in India. Coupled with the fact that the aesthetically designed pylons have an extremely complex geometry and one of the longest spans for concrete deck, the challenges encountered were indeed formidable. The bridge is considered as one of the prominent landmarks of Mumbai and a popular tourism destination.

Rapid Metro – Gurgaon
In the last few years, the traffic between Gurgaon and the capital city of Delhi has experienced an exponential growth, thus aggravating the situation. The aim was to provide a stress free, safe and comfortable journey to all its commuters in a pollution free and eco-friendly manner.

Rapid Metro, India’s first fully privately financed Metro system is IL&FS’ home project on intercity connectivity. It connects NH 8 to Delhi Metro via Cyber City and Golf Course Road.

Rapid Metro has a total length of 11.7 kilometres serving 11 stations. Rapid Metro connects the commercial areas of Gurgaon, and acts as a feeder link to the Delhi Metro. The trains are composed of three cars. The power output is supplied by 750 voltdirect current through third rail. The metro system was the first in India to auction naming rights for its stations.

Kochi Metro
The pepper town of India (Kochi) gave a rousing welcome to the Metro rail project, which was inaugurated in June this year by our Prime Minister. An average of 66,340 passengers takes the metro rail on a daily basis, which goes to show the success of the project. The project was divided into two phases with the first phase covering a distance of 25 kms from Aluva to Pettah and the phase II extension will cover a distance of 11.7 kms covering Kakanad, the IT hub of the State.

Kochi Metro has the distinction of commissioning the first phase in less than four years, which is the second fastest metro project in the country. The completed Phase I line has reduced the average travel time from 2 hours to 40 minutes.

Kochi metro was lauded for its decision to employ Kudumbashree (self-help group women) workers and also members of the transgender community. The project is also hailed for sustainable initiatives with the introduction of non-motorized transport corridors in the city, installation of solar panels for power and vertical garden on every sixth metro pillar.

Rajasthan Mega Highways Project

Government of Rajasthan (GoR) has been proactively improving State’s infrastructure to boost industrial and economic growth, fully leveraging its locational advantage. The Government is fully committed to make the State as one of the most favoured investment and tourism destinations in India.

In an important initiative towards this, the Government had set-up a 50:50 joint venture company between IL&FS and RIDCOR (GoR). GoR, IL&FS and RIDCOR entered into a Partnership & Development Agreement (PDA) for the implementation of the project. RIDCOR is a unique model on the Public Private Partnership basis, where the State Highways are developed with private funds arranged through leveraging of loan provided by Government.

As part of this vision, GoR conceptualized comprehensive road improvement programme titled ‘Mega Highways Project’ for important North-South road corridors of total length
1451 Km to two-lane paved/hard shoulder/4-lane hard shoulder (one stretch) configuration costing over INR 25.93 bn in Phases – I, II & III. In fact, the phase I (1100 kms) was completed in a record time of 2 years.

Commenting on the financing of these projects Mr Ramesh C. Bawa says, “Financing of mega projects is a challenge in our country as these projects are very time consuming and possess many operational as well execution challenges. At IL&FS Financial Services (IFIN), we are very proud to have engineered the financing of many such magnanimous projects in India through our innovative financial structuring and also to have contributed to India’s infrastructural dream."

MOMS @ Geographical challenge

Chenani-Nashri highway – Tunnel of Hope (Jammu & Kashmir)
The Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, a road tunnel in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on NH 44 built with an ultra-marathon effort of 21 million man days of intensive work; meticulous craftsmanship through a team of over 100 engineers; after 5 years and 6 months of hardships and challenges, one big mission was accomplished – India’s, in fact, South East Asia’s longest ‘Smart’ tunnel highway between Chenani and Nashri – was inaugurated on 2nd April, 2017 by the Prime Minister of India.

Located at an elevation of 1200 metres, from the sea level, with an overburden of up to 1 km in a difficult geography, the 9.28 kms project was acclaimed as ‘Engineering marvel’ by experts. The fully integrated four lane tunnel highway, will reduce the distance between the two capital cities by 31 kms thereby saving a huge fuel cost to the tune of One Billion Rupees per year (INR 27 lakhs per day approximately).

“This is the only project where a 19-km tunnel highway was completed in 4-year time with an average progress of 400m/month which is a record in Himalayan geology. Nowhere in the world was project of this stature at a similar geology has been ever done. This project is simply a mind-boggling and a monumental effort from our team.” says, Mr. Ashutosh Chandwar, Vice President, IL&FS Transportation Networks Limited (ITNL) citing the achievement of his team.

MOMS @ Inter-state connectivity
Chenab Rail Bridge

If the implementation of the Chenab Rail Bridge goes as per the plan, it could challenge some of the world’s finest architectures. The arch bridge that is being built over the Chenab River in the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The rail bridge is designed by consultants from Finland and Germany will have ‘blast proof’ and is being built to withstand even earthquakes.

To enhance the safety and security, the bridge is being made of 63 mm-thick special blast proof steel. Steel is more economical and can take temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. As much as 24,000-plus tonnes of steel will be used in the construction of the bridge. The bridge is expected to be ready by March 2019.

Indian Railways plans to install the sensors on the bridge to check the wind velocity. Whenever the wind speed will exceed 90 kmph, the signal on the track will automatically turn red thereby stopping the train movement.

Indian Railways had to build around 22km of roads to reach the site of the bridge. The Chenab Bridge forms a crucial link in the 111-km stretch between Katra and Banihal. This is as part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla section of the Kashmir Railway project.

The 325-km long Kashmir rail link project is said to be the most expensive stretch out of the entire 66,000-km rail line in the country.

Konkan Railways – covering Karnataka, Goa & Maharashtra

The tale of how the Konkan Railway was designed and built is an interesting story that not many of us know about. This feat of engineering had been contemplated by the British, a century ago, and abandoned as it was considered too formidable to complete.  It is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most difficult infrastructure projects India has undertaken and successfully completed since Independence.

Designed and built by Indian engineers in a record time of eight years, the Konkan Railway will take you on a breathtaking journey through rugged mountains, lush valleys, paddy fields, bustling villages and glistening rivers that lead out to sea. Heralding the realization of a long-cherished dream of the people of the Konkan region, the construction of Konkan Railway effectively connected the south-western coast of India with the rest of the country in a point-to-point straight line.

Building the Konkan Railways threw up a whole range of difficulties for the engineers tasked with the job. The rocky Sahyadri range had to be bored through, viaducts had to be built through valleys and more than 1,500 rivers had to be forded.

The topography of Western Ghat is extremely rugged and changes in every few kilometers. The builders had to cut through steep cliffs, deep gorges, rocky plateaus, swampy marshes, tropical jungle and fast flowing rivers, especially in Maharashtra where the Ghats reach directly to the sea.

After eight years of labour, the first passenger train along the picturesque Konkan Railway sea route was flagged off on January 26, 1998. Even today, a journey on this spectacular route, with its resplendent views of the Western Ghats, is an experience that will remain etched in our memory for a long, long time.

In a country where it takes years to complete a flyover, this was an incredible speed of construction!

Dhola Sadiya Bridge – India’s longest river bridge
Owing to poor connectivity and transport issues, Sadiya has always been an isolated and disadvantaged town in Assam. Dhola Sadiya Bridge, a 9.15-km long elevated roadway is built across the Lohit River and is considered as the longest river bridge in India. It will connect Assam and eastern Arunachal Pradesh. The total length of the project, including the approach roads on each side, is 28.50 km.

The bridge reduces the travel time between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh from six hours to just one hour as the distance has shrunk by 165 km. It is 3.55 km longer than the Bandra-Worli sea link in Mumbai.

The new roadway will make it much easier for Army convoys to reach outposts near the China border. It is also expected to boost tourism as there is no civilian airport in Arunachal Pradesh and this will make the road transport smoother.

All the above mega projects clearly indicate that geographical challenges can be surpassed and natural resources can be put to good use to achieve growth. Tested by geographical challenges, availability of finance, approvals, political scenarios and many more, these mega structures have made a significant mark in the infrastructural development of the country. The future ahead holds many promising projects connecting India.


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