Over 4,000 km of roads and highways are to be constructed over the next few years in the northeastern states to improve connectivity and change the fortunes of the region, a top official has said.
This constitutes the bulk of the 6,841 km of roads and highways to be built in India's hilly states, which include Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, at an estimated cost of Rs.45,164 crore (nearly $7 billion), said Anand Kumar, the first managing director of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL), which was created in 2014.
"We are the first to start 18 projects in Tripura, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh with a total length of 600 km at a cost of Rs.6,500 crore. This year we have started five projects in Arunachal Pradesh," Anand Kumar told IANS.
The NHIDCL took over the projects of the Border Road Organisation (BRO) and the Public Works Department (PWD) of the states concerned and has started showing results in no time in terms of improving the shoddy condition of the roads and highways in the region, he added.
Terming infrastructure the prime factor that can change the fortunes of the region, Anand Kumar said the corporation has taken all measures to maintain transparency and ensure that road and highway construction is all done with perfection.
"For transparency, we have handed over the work to regional contractors in small packages at a pre-estimated cost. These ensure that there is no misuse of funds by handing over a large stretch to a single contractor," Anand Kumar said.
The company has decided on 11 projects in Manipur, nine in Meghalaya, three in Mizoram, four in Nagaland, 23 in Arunachal Pradesh and seven in Tripura. In several projects, Japanese infrastructure major JICA has also chipped in. The Imphal-Moreh project is being funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), considering it is the link between India and Myanmar.
Emphasising that projects in the remaining northeastern states will be started within months, Anand Kumar, a 1984 Kerala batch IAS officer, said that there are several projects for four-lane roads, including the NH-39 that connects Dimapur and Kohima - considered Nagaland's main business route which is in a pathetic state during the monsoon.
"It is not an easy geographical area to work in, with undulating terrain and geological surprises. We try our best and, most importantly, after each road and highway is constructed by the local contractors, to whom we give out the work, our engineers do the quality check and if found below standards, we take the necessary action against them," he said.
Anand Kumar admitted that land acquisition and forest clearance are emerging as one of the prime factors in road construction in Assam and Meghalaya. "We are taking it up with the forest ministry and are soon likely to see an end to the problem."
He also emphasised on seven key strategies that NHIDCL follows, including use of e-tools through which bidding for tenders is done online. Existing procedures and processes are also being revisited to effectively monitor road construction and prevent graft.
Other strategies include continuous capacity building, use of new and appropriate technologies, creation of a scientific and innovative temper, speedy dispute resolution mechanism and regular consultation with stakeholders.
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