The Border Roads Organisation has completed merely 20% of the strategic roads project on the India China border assigned to it by the Ministry of Defence. The agency has now had to resort to outsource much of the work to finish work on the projects that are critical to movement of the Indian armed forces along strategic locations on the India-China border.

BRO sources said that the delay was caused by late environmental clearances earlier and land acquisition hurdles. Officials in the BRO said that due to limited resources available with the BRO, it is feasible to outsource the work to finish it on time. The India China Border Roads (ICBR) project cuts across many states and issues like delays in acquisition and limited resources has, according to a senior engineer in BRO overseeing the ICBR project, delayed the project.

The India China Border Roads project that was approved by the UPA-I government in 2006-07 and commissioned in 2012 by UPA-II was a project of 73 roads. Out of 73, 61 roads of a length stretching 3,471 km along the India-China border were given to the BRO for construction. Till date, only about 707 km of the roads have been completed by the BRO. The BRO claims 22 roads have been completed and the remaining 39 will be gradually delivered till a deadline of 2020.

China has, over the years, increased its presence along the border with an extensive road network which facilitates easy access to its Armed forces. ICBR is considered crucial to counter any land based threats from China, especially when tensions have again started to increase between the two neighbours on the strategic and diplomatic fronts viz. south China Sea militarisation and NSG and UN Security Council blockade orchestrated by India’s northeastern neighbour to maintain regional supremacy. Reports of heavy Chinese military deployment in Tibet have also done little to dissipate the tension.

The central government had taken up the project as priority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests had given necessary clearances under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to fast track the work. This move essentially removed the need to put the project through hearings overseen by district collectors. On Tuesday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar informed the Lok Sabha that the government had allowed the BRO to outsource some of the work. The minister also said that empowered committees have been set up in states like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Tripura that will work to solve issues related to land acquisition, forest and environment clearances and other hurdles.

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