With many highway projects pending with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for several years, the government will soon take over a chunk of these projects and fast-track their implementation under the newly-constituted National Highway and Infrastructure Development (NHIDCL).
The ministry of road transport and highways reckons that the NHIDCL would help improve the connectivity in the border areas.
According to official sources, the NHIDCL board, chaired by secretary-roads Vijay Chhibber, met recently for the first time and decided to shift six Project Implementation Units (PIUs) in the north-eastern states from BRO to itself. Also, it was decided to create four new PIUs in Uttarakhand to speed up the languishing projects.
The company would initially focus on highway projects connecting Kathmandu, Dhaka and Myanmar. Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari recently said that the work of BRO needs to be audited and projects needed to be completed, especially in the SAARC and Asean regions.
“The PMO has indicated that we should enhance road connectivity with our neighbouring countries through north-eastern states in order to reduce the cost of transportation of goods and improve trade relations among these nations. This new organisation has got the necessary powers, even greater than that of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to perform this mandate,” an official said.
The long-term objective of NHIDCL is to reduce the list of languishing projects of BRO and develop a 10,000-km border road network.
“Once the connectivity increases, bus services will also begin from India to Dhaka, Kathmandu and Myanmar, which
will give us a prime mover advantage in these strategic areas, giving seamless connectivity and building these as new emerging economic corridors,” the ministry official added.
NHIDCL has been formed with a seed capital of R100 crore by the roads ministry and has got in-principle approvals of investments from the World Bank, JICA and ADB.
“By extending the existing framework of the national highways to remote, border areas, India looks at an economically-integrated south and southeast Asia, not only for trade and commerce but also for security and strategic reasons,” the source added.
Besides, the local population along the identified highway project corridors in India would also reap economic benefits once the international borders are well-connected.
The government had approved the four-laning of 6,418 km of various category roads in the north-east for an estimated cost of around R33,500 crore.