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Why India's progress on border roads is slow

Visiting Arunachal Pradesh, in northeastern India, in January 2009, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a fast-track development programme to provide the geo-strategically located border state with much needed strategic and administrative infrastructure, including a major new road network.

Jan 8, 2018
By Anil Bhat
 
Visiting Arunachal Pradesh, in northeastern India, in January 2009, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a fast-track development programme to provide the geo-strategically located border state with much needed strategic and administrative infrastructure, including a major new road network.
 
Considering China’s great progress in developing the Tibetan Autonomous Region which it occupied in the 1950s and its threat to India, Dr. Singh’s announcement of developing Arunachal Pradesh was many decades late. And “fast-tracked” as promised is easier said than done in the terrain and weather conditions of that region. Besides, it also involved massive inter-regional transfer/conveyance of  special engineering equipment.
 
The Indian Army’s  operational requirement is of 530 roads totaling a length of 22,803, which were identified for construction/improvement by Border Roads Organisation (BRO). During the last three years, formation cutting of 3702 km equivalent Class-9, surfacing of 6296 km equivalent Class-9, permanent works worth Rs 3558 crores and major bridges of 6088 m length have been carried out.
 
Measures to improve the pace of execution of road infrastructure projects in the border areas are:
 
- States of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have constituted the Empowered Committee to resolve the issues pertaining to land acquisition and forest clearances.
 
- Outsourcing has been allowed to augment the capacity of BRO.
 
- Enhanced financial and administrative powers have been given to the executives   of BRO.
 
A total 73 roads are identified as strategic Indo-China border roads (ICBR), out of which 61 ICBRs have been entrusted to Border Roads Organization (BRO) with a length of 3417.50 km which were planned to be completed by 2012. The state-wise details of the projects going on and pending for more than five years are :
 

 State

Roads completed

Roads under progress

Nos

Length         

(in km)

Nos

Length            (in km)

 

Arunachal Pradesh

15

662.55

12

1129.40

Himachal Pradesh

04

59.63

01

56.00

Jammu and Kashmir

04

198.70

08

894.44

Sikkim

01

8.46

02

53.52

Uttarakhand

03

33.25

11

321.55

Total:

27

962.59

34*

2454.91

 
*Connectivity has been achieved in 23 out of these 34 roads.
 
Delays in execution of some of the 61 ICBRs entrusted to BRO are mainly due to: 
 
-  Delay in land acquisition.
 
-  Delay in Forest/Wildlife clearance
 
-  Hard rock stretches.
 
-  Limited working season.
 
-  Difficulties in availability of construction material.
 
-  Damages due to natural disasters.
 
BRO has been known for constructing mountain roads, bridges and tunnels in many parts of the Himalayas in extremely challenging conditions of very high altitudes, rugged terrain, steep gradients and in extremely cold weather.  Some of BRO’s constructions are world-class engineering/architectural wonders. Describing one of them, the Rohtang Tunnel, Lt Gen Ravi Shankar (Retd), former DG, BRO said it was the first tunnel constructed in the Greater Himalayas on young fold mountains full of  faults and was incomparable anywhere in the world. 
 
(The writer is a retired Indian Army officer and former spokesman.  He can be contacted at wordsword02@gmail.com)

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