N.N. Sinha, Managing Director of NHIDCL, says in the next financial year, the idea to build 1,613 km road will be proposed and he is satisfied with the work progress so far.
The National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), a fully owned company of the Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, was formed four years ago to create road infrastructure in states which share international boundaries. The idea behind the move was to improve regional connectivity in strategic areas, which would promote India’s socio-economic relations with neighbouring countries through cross border trade and commerce, and, at the same time, help safeguard India’s international borders. This, the government felt, would lead to formation of a more integrated and economically consolidated South and South East Asia. Moreover, this will help integrate the border areas with the mainstream in a more robust manner. In an interview to The Sunday Guardian, N.N. SINHA, Managing Director, speaks about the activities undertaken by the company in the last four year and the projects which are in the pipeline. Excerpts:
Q: How is NHIDCL different from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI)?
A: While NHAI is an Authority, NHIDCL is a company and is run in a corporate set up. We focus on creating infrastructure along the areas having international borders which are of strategic interest. On the other hand, NHAI primarily takes care of road infrastructure in the mainland. NHIDCL’s work is mainly confined to areas which have boundaries with countries like China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mynamar, Bhutan and Pakistan.
Q: Though four years is not a long period, how far has the NHIDCL been able to create road infrastructure along the international borders?
A: NHIDCL undertakes infrastructure projects in as many as 13 states, which share international boundaries.
In the last four years, we have already built about 800 km roads in these areas, while work contracts for building 3,922 km worth Rs 45,000 crore have been awarded so far. We have undertaken tunnel projects in Z-Morh in Sonamarg, Zojila Pass (both (Jammu & Kashmir) and Silkyara in Uttarakhand. Besides, we are building two major bridges along the international borders— Subroom (Tripura) to Rampur (Bangladesh) on the Feni river and another on Mechi river which will connect part of West Bengal with Nepal and ultimately link with AH-2. We are also working on a bridge at Kaliabhumra on the Brahmputra river in Assam. The NHIDCL is also developing 400 km stretch of NH 37/52 in Assam and 330 km highway—Andaman Trunk Toad—in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. We have awarded work orders to build 924 km road in 2018-19. We will complete construction of about 720 km roads. In the next financial year, we propose to award works for 1,613 km and complete and deliver about 872 km of highways. I am satisfied with the progress of the work so far. But yes, we have to do a lot more.
Q: Which are the projects in the pipeline?
A: We are planning a bridge between Dhubri (Assam) and Phulbari (Meghalaya) over the Brahmaputra river in Assam, which will be about 20 km long. In Port Blair, we propose to build a bridge which will connect Chatham Island and Bamboo Flat over the sea water. Besides, we are also working on making DPRs for tunnels on the Manali-Leh Axis, which will have three tunnels and make it passable in all weather. We are exploring a possibility of a under river tunnel at Brahmputra near Numaligarh. We are working on alternate connectivity to Sikkim. The projects undertaken by us along with PWDs and BRO under SARDP will be connecting almost all district headquarters with at least two-lane connectivity. One of the major projects being undertaken by us in Mizoram will connect Aizawl to Tuivai through an over 350 km highway. This will, in turn, provide connectivity through Kaladan Multimodal Project in Myanmar, thereby providing an alternate link to Mizoram to Indian seaports. We will be taking up about 5,000 km of projects under the “Bharatmala Pariyojana”, including Multimodal Logistics Project at Jogigopha at Assam, bypasses around six major towns, including capitals like Aizawl, Imphal, Kohima etc.
Q: What are the challenges in executing infrastructure projects along the border areas?
A: The biggest challenge is difficult terrain and unfavourable weather conditions in the areas where we work which hamper construction works. Most of the areas are hilly and witness plenty of rainfall. In some cases, we do not get full support of state governments as we would have wished for. We need land for construction of roads for which the land acquisition is to be done by the state governments. In many cases, forest land needs to be diverted for widening and improving geometries of the highways. In North-Eastern states, supply of construction materials is a big challenge. Law and order issues, including ransom demands in some areas of N-E states, also affects the pace of development. Local contracting capacity and skilled manpower is also in short supply. However, despite all these challenges, we have been able to complete many projects in time. In Andhra Pradesh, a 50 km road was inaugurated.In Arunachal Pradesh, two stretches totalling 47 km of road have just been inaugurated. A 72 km road stretch in Tripura was completed. And all of this has been completed before time. In fact, with this, the curse of interminable delays in completion of projects in the North East and many border areas seem to have been overcome.
Q: What is the kind of response from the neighbouring countries when it comes to connecting their areas with India’s?
A: We normally get support from the neighbouring countries, but there are problems with some of them. We get good cooperation from Bangladesh officials, but we see some delay from Nepal as regards the Mechi Project.
Q: Are you planning to diversify your activities?
A: Yes, we are exploring new avenues to generate revenue. We are planning to develop automated parking lot. One such project was done for the Transport department in the capital. Besides, we also plan to build runways for airports in different parts of the country. There is a plan to develop a multi-nodal logistic park which will have all kinds of connectivity—road, rail and water. One such project is proposed at Jogigopha (Assam) for which we are in the process of preparing a detailed project report (DPR). We also propose to support states to build Bus Ports which will have all the modern facilities and where both government and private buses can be parked for the convenience of travellers. We also plan to propose to the MEA to use our services for its projects, as we feel confident of turning around languishing projects as we have done in the case of Postal Roads Projects in Nepal.