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20Jan2015

Country Roads

The MiliariumAureum or “golden milestone” is supposed to have been a monument erected over 2000 years ago in the central Forum of ancient Rome. It may have served as the “kilometer zero” point of the Roman Empire from which all distances were measured, and the fact that all roads “emanated” from here probably led to the tired “all roads lead to Rome” aphorism.


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It is not an understatement to say that Roman roads were crucial in the economic and territorial development of the empire:

“They provided efficient means for the overland movement of armies, officials and civilians, and the inland carriage of official communications and trade goods.”

In the succeeding centuries, though many innovations have come and gone in overland transport technology, the road with the “last mile” connectivity it provides to people and goods retains its primacy as the “circulatory system” (if you will) of the nation state. This is more true in the case of large, developing countries where connectivity (or lack thereof) will literally make or break the economy.

India is possibly on the cusp of high growth in GDP for the next decade. The key to attaining high growth rates is well understood across different business segments & policy makers, and unequivocally identified as “infrastructure”. In that context, the recent announcement by the Government of India, to launch 8,000km of road projects at an average cost of INR 75 million is welcome.

Various studies have indicated that the transport sector contributed11.3% towards the GDP as of 2009-10, of which 8.1% was due to road transportation proving that the significance of road projects is high.

Based on the data and reports from Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation in India(MOSPI), the number of road projects delayed is highest and indicates that this factor is becoming a significant hurdle to achieve full potential GDP growth.

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A study published recently in IJRET throws up some interesting numbers. While identifying the drivers for delay in the form of “Causes”, “Party” who owns the cause, the Relative Importance Index(RII), and the ranking by significance; the comprehensive list highlighted 64 causes of which we have tried highlighting the Top-10

Cause of the Delay

Also utilizing the same data and slicing it slight differently it yielded the following result:

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To sum it up, majority of the delays were emerging owing to Client and the Contractor for stakeholders and within the enablers it happens to be mostly owing to Manpower and Equipment.

Across a range of causes including “Land acquisition” to “Lack of co-ordination between stakeholders”, irrespective of the cause the delays terribly hurt allproject stakeholders of course, but also the country’s GDP as well. While a significant proportion of delays can be attributed to “policy” reasons for which the remedies may have to be implemented at the statutory and bureaucratic level, issues of (among others) coordination, site management, communication and delayed payments have major role to play. To our (admittedly unbiased!) eyes, these are areas where better processes (whether it’s project management, design coordination, payment etc.) and pinpoint technology interventions can make a difference. Doubtless the extent to which these interventions can succeed is determined by the ability of stakeholders to absorb the technology. Many major road projects are public sector projects or executed under the PPP (public private partnership) model, and as such some of the key stakeholders are government officials and bureaucrats.

The stereotypical image we have of these important public functionaries is one of slow moving, technology fearful, career minded individuals, but our experience has proved to be quite contradictory. As part of our work at Nadhi, we’ve met with a number of officials and almost always been pleasantly surprised by their technological awareness, acumen, and eagerness to learn and change the way things are being done.

A case in point is one of the early projects where nPulse was used, which was the Santa Cruz Chembur Link Road that cuts across the heart of one of the largest cities in the world. The MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) and MSRDC (Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation) were key stakeholders in this World Bank project, and it was their insistence that there be technology based system for monitoring the project and flagging risks that enabled us and our partners at KPMG to get nPulse deployed at the contractors’ offices and enabled them to get real-time progress updates.

The “TL;DR” of all this being that

(i)            roads are a big part of the future prosperity of India and other parts of the world,

(ii)          delays in completing them have cascading results in term of delays in poverty alleviation etc.

(iii)         with the right approach and technology, a non-trivial chunk of these delays can be mitigated,

(iv)          and that appropriate technology can find acceptance even in the hearts of the most recalcitrant seeming organizations

I’ll leave you with a song which we’re interpreting a little differently.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vrEljMfXYo

Country roads will take us home, hopefully. Even if that’s not exactly what John Denver was thinking.

 

  • 20 Jan, 2015
  • Venu Madhav
  • 0 Comments
  • Client, Contractor, Cost overruns, History of Roads, India-Roads, Project, Project Delays, Project Management, Roads, Schedule overruns,

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