Maharashtra eyes $16 billion push to revamp infrastructure

Mumbai, July 10

India’s wealthiest state plans to spend almost $16 billion over five to six years on a revamp of key infrastructure, reviving long-dormant projects including a Mumbai airport, a port and a key coastal road, Maharashtra’s chief minister said.

Seeking to accelerate economic growth, India’s government has prioritised kick-starting infrastructure projects that had gathered dust, either because of an obstructive bureaucracy, a lack of private sector interest or in some cases, lengthy litigation.

Congested Mumbai, the biggest city in Maharashtra and India’s financial capital, is home to some of the most delayed projects in the country. But the state — the size of Italy, with almost double the population — says reviving them is a priority, as it actively courts investment to create much-needed jobs. Half of its population is under 25.

“It should not have waited so long. It is late. But now we will try to catch up,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in an interview.

Fadnavis, who last year became the first member of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to run the state, said he had accelerated the infrastructure plans, in part due to direct intervention from the central government. That includes, for example, for new Mumbai airport, which is scheduled to see its first flight in 2019.

“In four months, we got all eight clearances,” he said, adding that a bidder for the project would be chosen by the end of the summer.

The airport is a crucial part of efforts to push Mumbai development away from the sea, alleviating a metropolitan area estimated to be home to more than 20 million and whose roads and public transport are already choked.

That project will include a road bridge, on the drawing board for more than four decades and taken up by the media as a case study in infrastructure delays and the impact of poor planning — as well as a new city on a 600 square km plot around the airport, the size of the current city of Mumbai.

The broader infrastructure plan will also include a new port outside Mumbai, reviving a project first mooted in 1996.

Fadnavis has travelled frequently over last six months on a high profile campaign to attract big investors to Maharashtra, from Mercedes Benz to Foxconn.