New Delhi, Oct 5 (IBNS) The North Eastern Region (NER) is a critical geographical region of India, said Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Paban Singh Ghatowar.
He was addressing the two-day India-Bangladesh Dialogue organized by Asian Institute of Transport Development here. The topic of the address was on connectivity in North Eastern States.
"The North Eastern Region (NER), comprising the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim - is a critical geographical region of India. The Region accounts for 8 % of country's area, has combined population of 45 million and GDP of around $38 billion and has 96 per cent of the boundary forming international border," said Ghatowar.
"The region is India's gateway to North and Southeast Asia on account of its borders with China and Myanmar. The region also has borders with India's South Asian neighbours - Bhutan and Bangladesh," he said.
Ghatowar said the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has been constructing roads under National Highway Development Project Phase II (East West Corridor-670 km) and SARDP-NE (10141 km; phase A- 4099 km, Phase B- 3723 km and Arunachal Package- 2319 km).
Under the flagship Prime Ministers Gram Swarojgar Yojana (PMGSY) programme of Ministry of Rural Development, road construction is being undertaken in rural areas. Investments in road sector have been from multiple sources like, Ministry of road Transport and Highways, Ministry of DoNER, Planning Commission, External funding, BADP, PMGSY, MNREGA BRO etc.
In SARDP-NE alone, about Rs 5500 crore has been spent for construction of 892 km road during 11th plan. Road connectivity in district towns as well as remote areas will continue in 12th Five Year Plan too.
He said the Ministry of Railways has taken up various projects like (a) new lines connecting to State capitals and others places (These are 13 in no. and 965 km in length; of which 8 are National Projects), (b) gauge conversion (4 in no. and 1510 km in length; of which 2 are National Projects) and (c) doubling of Railway lines (1 in no. and about 45 km in length). Railway electrification of 836 km stretch is also under progress.
"During 11th Five Year Plan, a sum of Rs. 7881.80 crore has been invested in Railway sector in NER. Ministry of Railways has indicated a throw forward of Rs.16153 crore (as on 1.4.2012) for ongoing projects. Most of the projects are likely to be completed by 2015-16," he said.
On the air connectivity, Ghatowar said the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been operating flights from 11 operational airports.
"Simultaneously, efforts are being also made to operationalise 12 non-operational airports," he said.
Ghatowar informed that Airport Authority of India (AAI) has spent Rs 601 crore in 11th plan for development of airport infrastructure in NER and for 12th plan their budgetary requirement has been projected as Rs. 1833 crore.
Proposals for development of Guwahati as hub and improvement of other airports are also being considered, he said.
The DoNER Minister observed that the NER being riverine, offers immense scope for development of Inland Water Transport. Ministry of Shipping is working on maximizing the transport facilities on National Waterways-2 and presently, they have taken initiative to notify National Waterways-6 on River Barak in Assam.
Ghatowar said that there are also several international connectivity projects in the pipeline which have the potential to transform the region economically.
"These include the multi-modal transport project for linking Mizoram by road and an inland waterway to the Bay of Bengal through the Sittwe Port in Myanmar, road links for connecting the NER to Thailand and a rail connection from Delhi to Hanoi in Vietnam through the NER," he said.
Similarly, there is a proposal of rail link between North East India- Bangladesh and West Bengal, the Minister added.