Difficult terrain, geographical location and short working season pose a challenge to carry out development work and maintain communication links in the Northeast, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Thursday. “Difficult and hilly terrain, geographical location and short working season of the northeastern region pose a challenge to development of optimal infrastructure and communication links within the region and with the rest of the country,” he said in Rajya Sabha.
Singh, Minister for Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), said the infrastructural bottlenecks include inadequate road and railway connectivity, power transmission and distribution, telecom connectivity and absence of airports in the region.
He said Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, under its Special Accelerated Road Development Programme – North East (SARDP-NE), out of 1,427 kms, 989 kms of roads have been completed during the last three years and the current year.
Apart from the development under SARDP-NE, about 637 km length of national highways (NHs) covered under NHDP Phases -I and II in Assam are being improved to four-lane standard as part of East-West Corridor.
Singh, replying to a written question, said that works in about 597 kms have been completed so far. Also, improvement of NH-44 from Jowai to Ratacherra (length 104 km) in Meghalaya to two-lane with paved shoulder is in progress by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
Ministry of Railways has sanctioned two new rail doubling projects totalling 283 kms in the region in the last three years.
Airports Authority of India (AAI) is constructing a greenfield airport at Pakyong (Sikkim) suitable for operation of ATR-72 aircraft. Also, AAI has planned operationalisation of Tezu airport in Arunachal Pradesh for ATR-72 aircraft operations.
Singh said under the Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan, Department of Telecom envisages providing mobile coverage to 8,621 identified uncovered villages by installation of about 6,673 mobile towers, installation of 321 mobile tower sites along National Highways and strengthening of transmission network in the region.
The DoNER minister said the Ministry of Power is implementing Comprehensive Scheme for Strengthening of Transmission and Distribution Systems in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim at a total estimated cost of Rs 4,754.42 crore with the completion schedule of 48 months – by December, 2018.
The Cabinet has accorded investment approval to North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP) for six states (viz Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland for strengthening of the intra-state transmission and distribution system (33 kv and above) at a total cost of Rs 5,111.33 crore with the completion schedule of 48 months -by December, 2018.
In addition, he said, the DoNER ministry provides funds to state governments to bridge infrastructural gaps in the Northeast. Under NLCPR scheme, the ministry has sanctioned 169 projects at an approved cost of Rs 2,791.44 crore and North Eastern Council has sanctioned 41 projects at an approved cost of Rs 500.58 crore, during the last three years and the current year.