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NEW DELHI : The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is in talks with the housing and urban affairs ministry to offer land it holds along national highways connecting major tourist spots and religious sites to develop realty projects, two government officials privy to the development said.

The highways authority plans to offer the land for building hotels, warehousing centres and affordable housing projects alongside the national highways, the officials said on the condition of anonymity.

“NHAI has offered land along the highways to the housing ministry and other departments at concessional rates," one of the officials said. The move is being considered with a dual objective—better monetization of NHAI’s land banks and to push economic growth, the official added.

Both officials did not disclose the size of NHAI’s land bank and the quantum of land it proposes to offer for realty development.

Responding to a query from Mint, the ministry of road transport and highways, NHAI’s nodal ministry, said the authority acquires land solely to build highways and additional land is used for peripheral activities related to the highways.

The housing ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Land banks belonging to the NHAI alongside highways generally make way for public amenities such as retail shops, restaurants and ATMs. Such land banks would now also be offered for realty development, especially along highways touching pilgrimage centres and other places of tourist interest.

In terms of residential development, the projects would largely feature affordable properties, the second official said. Affordable housing has been a key focus of the government, given its housing for all mission. The move, if implemented, is expected to boost the real estate sector, which has been through a slowdown in the past few years, due to currency demonetization, liquidity crisis and the pandemic.

Malcolm Athaide, chief executive and co-founder, Agrim Housing Finance said the plan to build warehousing centres and affordable housing projects along national highways will spur development of many micro-regions and create good micro real estate markets.

“The move will also give a boost to the monetization of land along the major national highways, which will improve the finances of NHAI. This will also lead to the much-needed creation of employment opportunities for both skilled and semi-skilled workforce resulting in the all-around development of many regions," he said.

The plans come at a time the government is looking to improve connectivity to tourist sites. In a recent interview, Giridhar Aramane, transport secretary said a major push is being given for connecting places of interest for tourists, including religions destinations, with national highways.

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