India awards road contract to complete Kaladan project in Myanmar

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 09, 2017

A Rs 1,600-crore contract has been awarded for building 109-km road connecting Paletwa river terminal to Zorinpui in Mizoram border.

The Narendra Modi government is finally on course to completing the $484-million Kaladan multi-modal transport projects in Myanmar that will offer connectivity to Mizoram in India. Kaladan was the first major project taken up by India in Myanmar.

According to sources, a ₹1,600-crore contract has been awarded for building 109-km road connecting Paletwa river terminal to Zorinpui in Mizoram border. The construction is expected to start after the monsoon in October.

India completed the construction of Sittwe port, at the estuary of Kaladan river, in trouble-prone Rakhine state of Myanmar, last year, one year behind schedule. Construction of the river terminal 158 km upstream and dredging of the river to ensure navigability are in the final stages.

At the Indian side, extension of the Aizawl-Saiha National Highway by 90 km to the international border at Zorinpui, at the southern tip of Mizoram, is almost over.

Four-laning of highway

It was one of the most challenging road projects taken up in this part of the country, in decades.

Also, a ₹6,000-crore project is under way for four-laning of the 300 km Aizawl-Tuipang highway to ensure faster movement of goods between Sittwe and Mizo capital of Aizawl in the North West which is close to the Barak Valley of Assam.

However, absence of the road link between Paletwa and Zorinpui led to doubts over the utility of such huge investments on either side of the border. Sources told BusinessLine that not a single ship has called at the Sittwe port so far.

Inordinate delay

Mooted in 2003, India entered a framework agreement with Myanmar for Kaladan project in 2008. Construction began in 2010 with a deadline in June 2015. But, no headway was achieved on the road project.

Inadequate fund allocation and planning failure were seen as major reasons for the delay.

In October 2015, the Narendra Modi government revised the budget estimates by nearly six times to ₹2,904 crore and roped in State-owned Ircon Infrastructure and Services Ltd as consultant with an aim to complete the project in 2019.

However, finding a contractor became an issue. Last year, the project was tendered twice but without success. Sources say the logjam was broken recently as the project was awarded to a Delhi-based firm C & C Constructions.

While C&C could not be contacted, sources said the contractor would mobilise men and machine during the monsoon and open offices at Sittwe, Paletwa and Yangon in Myanmar.

SEZ at Sittwe

According to sources, as per the framework agreement, India should also set up an SEZ at Sittwe, which is located closer to the Chinese port and SEZ at Kyaukphyu.

In 2015, the Ministry of External Affairs appointed a consultant to explore the possibility. A suitable land was also identified in Sittwe. This is important to promote Indian investment in the region overriding strong Chinese influence.

However, no movement is reported on this issue since.

Published on June 09, 2017
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