By the Way

The cost factor

Transport Ministry officials are said to be in a tizzy about what the surface of roads in India should be like. This situation has come about because the construction business is in recessionary mode. The cement industry, particularly, is facing a crunch because of low demand. So, members of the Manufacturers of Cement Association (MCA) met the Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, and requested him to use a cement component in laying highways. Gadkari patiently listened to them and then suggested they should meet National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) Chairman Raghav Chandra. Currently, we learn, NHAI officials are conducting a cost-benefit analysis. But everyone knows there are two methods to construct a road: One, flexible pavement, which consists of various layers of granular material with a layer of bituminous materials on top. The other is rigid pavement, which consists of cement concrete pavements laid on a well-prepared granular sub-base. With the international prices of bituminous materials slumping by 25 per cent in February, the rigid pavement method is obviously more costly. In addition, rigid pavements exert more wear and tear impact on vehicles. In these circumstances, NHAI officials are keeping a discrete silence as they don’t know what the Ministry would like. MCA leaders are, meanwhile, knocking on the doors of NHAI, but there appears to be no light on the road.

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