Infrastructure key element for development in North East region: PM
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said his government viewed infrastructure development in the North East as a key element in the strategy for developing the region and increasing connectivity with the rest of the country.
Addressing a meeting of North East Chief Ministers here to review the progress of infrastructure projects in the region, Dr. Singh said: "Very considerable progress is being made in each of the sectors reviewed today".
He directed the Planning Commission to constitute a monitoring committee with representatives from the North East states to improve coordination among central ministries.
The meeting was organized by the Planning Commission, which is the nodal agency appointed for initiating and monitoring developmental work in the North East region.
The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, made a detailed presentation on infrastructure development in the region, and noted that continuous focus on the region has led to satisfactory results during the 11th Plan period.
He said the state domestic product growth in the region has been above the national average for the first time ever in the 11th Plan, which he added underscored the success of the initiatives and constant monitoring by the Planning Commission.
The GSDP of North East region grew nearly ten per cent during the 11th Plan period from 2007-2012, compared to eight per cent for the country as a whole. This growth was supported by good agriculture sector performance including horticulture, floriculture, fisheries, rubber and oil palm production.
Ahluwalia further noted that during the same period total central assistance, including NCA, ACA, SCA and SPA had more than doubled to the region from Rs. 34764 crore during the 10th Plan to Rs. 73374 crore during the 11th Plan period. As a result, plan expenditure has grown significantly in all north east states as share of GSDP.
Central Ministries have focused on development of infrastructure, including railways, roads, airports, telecom and power.
The following are the highlights of the review in individual infrastructure sectors:
The Twelfth Plan initiated a major expansion in railway development in the region. There are 20 Railway projects under way of which 10 are national projects. Highlights are: • Additional financial resources of Rs 314 crore were made available in the current year to allow completion of Rangiya-Rangpura (Tezpur), Rangpura- North Lakhimpur and North Lakhimpur- Murkongselek.
• Lumding - Silchar gauge conversion for main and branch lines. Additional resources of Rs 100 crore were provided in current year. Expected completion - March 2015 for main line and June 2016 for branch lines.
• Bogibeel Rail cum road bridge across Brahmaputra to be completed by Dec 2016.
• New broadgauge line Dudhnoi - Mendipathar to be completed by March 2014 will be the first rail connectivity to Meghalaya.
• New broad gauge line Harmuti-Naharlagun to be completed by March 2014 will be the first rail connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh.
• The following seven national projects will be completed in the Twelfth Plan: Rangiya-Murkongselek (Assam), Lumding- Silchar including branch lines (Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura), Tetelia- Byrnihat (Meghalaya), Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal (Manipur), Bogibeel bridge (Assam), Kumarghat-Agartala (Tripura), Agartala-Subroom (Tripura)
• The East West Corridor of the National Highways in the North East is 500 km. 81 % is complete and likely completion date is December 2014. Govt of Assam has to resolve some land availability issues.
• The Special Accelerated Road Development Project involves development of 4099 km of roads in phase A. Of this, 2505 km have been sanctioned and 1215 km are complete. Various steps taken to improve implementation were reviewed. Targeted completion dates for various stretches are between June 2015 to March 2017.
• The Trans Arunachal Highway programme involves a length of 2319 km of which 58 percent is sanctioned. Completion date for various stretches is between June 2016 and March 2018. Additional six projects implementation units set up to speed up work. Actions needed to speed up implementation, including action by State governments in several areas, was reviewed.
• The North East currently has 4080 MW of generation capacity and another 6810 MW are under development. Untapped hydro potential is 55,561 MW and development of this potential would generate surplus power meeting the energy needs of the nation and also generating resources for the region.
• There is need for expeditious environmental and forest clearances and also land acquisition. Ministry of Environment has recently issued fresh guidelines which will help. The Cabinet Committee on Investment cleared the Dibang project recently.
• The Lower Subansiri project is facing some implementation problems which need early resolution. Ministry of Power and Government of Assam have scheduled a meeting in February.
• Intra-state Transmission line network for Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim is being taken up under NLCPR (Central)
• For states other than Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim Power grid has prepared a project for evacuation of power being funded by World Bank and GoI.
Air connectivity has increased considerably and average departures per week have more than doubled from 226 in 2001 to 497 in 2012. However more needs to be done and is being planned.
• New Airport being developed at Pakyong. Some land acquisition issues remain and State Government has to construct the approach road from Gangtok to Pakyong. Airport could be completed by December 2014.
• New Airport at Itanagar is planned by state government has to resolve land acquisition issues, approach road and electricity and water.
• New Airport at Cheihu: an alternative site has to be selected by the state Government
• Several existing airports are being expanded/modernized: Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Shillong, Imphal, Agartala.
• Guwahati is being developed as a regional hub to improve connectivity
• Intra regional network is weak. NEC is trying to develop through VGF support.
Inland Water Transport
National Waterway 2 on Brahmaputra (891 km) provides scope for eco friendly and cheap transport of both commodities and people. It is planned to ensure 2 to 2.5 metre depth with navigation aids and ten floating terminals maintained by IWAI.
• 16 floating terminals for passengers, being set up by Ministry of Shipping are expected to be operational by end march 2014, Four are already operational.
• IWAI is developing a Roll on Roll off facility at Dubri and Hatsingimari to reduce travel time of vehicles between Meghalaya and Dhubri in Assam which now have to go over Jogihopa bridge adding 220 km.
• Vessel repair facility is being developed at Pandu (Guwahati). Assam govt to expedite land transfer.
Teledensity in the north east has improved considerably but is still below the national average. The Twelfth Plan envisages a Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the North East which includes:
• Mobile coverage of all uncovered sub divisional district headquarters and uncovered villages. Work is being undertaken by the North East Space Application Centre in association with DoT supported by innovative technology
• Mobile coverage to all uncovered portions along the national Highways.
• Covering all District Headquarters with optical fibre cable (OFC) connectivity or satellite media.
• Complete OFC connectivity from District to Block (Target date Dec 2014) and from Block to Panchayat/Village Council (Target date 2015).Covering remote border areas through microwave network and satellite media DONER will pay transponder lease charges and satellite bandwidth charges for the Twelfth Plan period.
• To improve connectivity alternate telecom routing through Akhaura (Bangladesh) to Agartala in Tripura is being explored.
(Posted on 21-01-2014)