Delay in Myanmar approvals holds up Kaladan road project

First, it was delay on the part of India that held up implementation of key India-sponsored infrastructure projects in Myanmar. Now, delay in getting due permissions from Myanmar is holding up work on the ₹2,904-crore Kaladan multi-modal transport project.

Kaladan is the single largest development activity undertaken by India in a foreign country.

109-km-long road

In June this year, IRCON International awarded the contract for building the 109-km-long road connecting Paletwa river terminal in Rakhine State to Zorinpui on the Mizoram border. The construction was expected to start after the monsoon in October, but it didn’t.

At a recent conference organised by the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (ISCS) and Myanmar government think-tank MISIS, in Yangon, Indian Ambassador Vikram Misri said the construction is waiting for “some approvals” from the Myanmar government. Misri did not elaborate on the nature of approvals but, he hoped that the work would start soon. However, the delay may cost heavy due to the narrow weather window available in the region.

Indian investment

Meanwhile, the prolonged delay in completing the road project and the lack of captive cargo is diminishing the viability of existing Indian investments in Sittew Port and Paletwa river terminal, a part of the Kaladan project.

India completed the port development, with six-metre assured draft, in early 2016. As per the bilateral agreement, the port was handed over to the local government.

Almost two years down the line, the port has lost its navigability as draft is down to barely one metre. Sources in both India and Myanmar blame it on prolonged disuse and failure on the part of Myanmar to continue dredging activities.

As a corrective measure, India is now trying to amend the agreement to bring the port under joint operations.

Trilateral Highway

Meanwhile, construction of the ₹1,173-crore road project from Kalwa to Yargi in Myanmar by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is yet to take off. The project is part of the Trilateral Highway project that will connect Moreh in Manipur with Mae Sot in Thailand.

In early September, NHAI identified the potential EPC contractor for the project through competitive bidding. However, work order couldn’t be issued till availability of at least 80 per cent unencumbered land. Sources, however, told BusinessLine that Myanmar has promised to make necessary arrangements soon. The upgradation of 71 bridges on Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo section of the proposed Trilateral Highway is yet to take off either. Though IRCON identified a potential EPC contractor, the bid value of ₹293 crore exceeded the budgetary allocation of ₹280 crore.

Thokchom Jotin Singh, general secretary of the Manipur Chamber of Commerce and Industry, however, confirmed that the construction may start in December as the government is escalating the budget.

Source : The Hindu Business Line

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