There seems to be a huge gap between the hype created over the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project and the ground reality. The multi-crore project is also being depicted as a crucial component of the Act East Policy and a scheme that will provide an outlet for the landlocked Northeast to the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar.
Construction of the project began in 2010 but two deadlines for completion have already been missed. Last March, work was halted in Mizo- ram after an agitation was launched by landowners at Lawngtlai where the 87 km highway linking the district headquarters and Zorinpui is being constructed. The disagreement is over a plot of around 40 acres near a border outpost of the Assam Rifles at Zochachhuah. with over 300 landowners now demanding compensation. The Mizoram government had approached the Centre for the release of funds to the landowners.
Lawngtlai deputy commissioner N Chakhai said that a package has now been worked out for the landowners by the government. “All the landowners are to be compensated very soon.
The Centre has sanctioned a financial package and work on the highway is on at a good pace,” he said.
But there are other obstacles in the project. The budget has been revised for the third time which has jumped from the initial estimate of Rs 507 cr to Rs 1011 cr. Some officials are of the opinion that the budget would have to be revised again owing to the delays and increasing expenses. About 70 percent of the highway between Zorinpui and Lawngtlai had been completed when this correspondent visited the site in Mizoram last March. But this highway which would undoubtedly be among the best in the region stands in sharp contrast to the conditions beyond Lawngtlai and perhaps also the stretch from Zorinpui to Paletwa in Myanmar.
Construction of the project began in 2010 but two deadlines for completion have already been missed. Last March, work was halted in Mizoram after an agitation was launched by landowners at Lawngtlai where the 87 km highway linking the district headquarters and Zorinpui is being constructed.
The Mizoram government has approached the Centre for a scheme to widen National High- way 54 from Lawngtlai to the state’s border with Assam which covers a distance of 515 kms via Aizawl and Kolasib. It is unlikely that the high- way would be able to handle a large volume of traffic in its current conditions. The condition of the highway left much to be desired between Vairengte and the state’s border with Assam. It
might take several years for the highway to be widened since a survey would have to be conducted and land acquired after the project is sanctioned.
Due to the heavy rains, work on such jumbo projects in most parts of the Northeast is possible only for about five months between Novem- ber and March. Spare parts for heavy machinery have to be transported over long distances and sometimes work comes to a halt due to shortage of fuel. The firms engaged in jumbo construction projects in the region also have to struggle to assemble the work force including engineers, mechanics and labourers. For Kaladan, the supply of raw materials like stone, sand and cement has been a constant problem contributing to unexpected delays very often.
Efforts to derive information on the current situation on the Myanmar segment was not possible but media reports said that construction on the 109 kms road project that connects Paletwa river terminal to Zorinpui on the Mizoram border has finally started after years of delay. But speedy execution of the scheme could be a Herculean task as the road would have to pass through dense forests and hilly areas. This is also the region where the Arakan Army is active and battling the Myanmar Army.
Rajeev Bhattacharyya is a senior journalist based in Guwahati.