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Concern over slow progress of Kaladan project

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, April 21 - The Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project is vital for improving the connectivity to the northeastern region and also for the success of the Act East Policy. But the slow progress of implementation of the project is a matter of serious concern. This was the view expressed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.

The committee, in a report, said that the project is piloted and funded by the Ministry of External Affairs. The committee is aware that this project was expected to be operationalized by December, 2016. However, till date, no component of the project has been completely operationalized and the road component has been languishing for a long time. This indicates a failure of monitoring and supervision.

The report said that the project is an integral part of the Act East Policy of India and is of strategic importance. The committee, therefore, recommended that the Ministry of External Affairs should take ownership and responsibility for the project and that all the components of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project should be completed at the earliest to resolve the connectivity woes of the northeastern region.

The committee was informed that in accordance with the Act East Policy, the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport (KMTT) Project was conceptualized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to provide an alternative connectivity to Mizoram with Haldia/Kolkata ports through the Kaladan river in Myanmar. The project envisages road transport from Mizoram to Paletwa (Myanmar), thereafter from Paletwa to Sittwe (Myanmar) by inland waterways and from Sittwe to Haldia and other Indian ports by maritime shipping. The project is piloted and funded by the MEA.

The report of the committee also gave an account of the present status of the implementation of the project and revealed for the port and inland waterways transport component, the MEA appointed the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) as the project development consultant. Based on IWAI�s recommendation, MEA had awarded the work to the successful bidder, M/s ESSAR Projects (I) Pvt Ltd for construction of Sittwe port and IWT components at a cost of Rs 342 crore. The phase-I of the project consisting of a sea port at Sittwe, an inland terminal at Paletwa, dredging of the approach channel at Sittwe, dredging of Kolodyne river between Sittwe and Paletwa, and construction of six cargo vessels of 300 tonnes each has been completed. Besides these, additional works such as staff quarters, administrative building, warehouse, etc., were proposed at Paletwa and Sittwe. These are under progress and are scheduled to be completed by April, 2018.

In the meantime, the MEA has also approved phase-II works with port and IWT component which are to be taken up soon. These works include preparation of DPR for a new container depot at Sittwe for which a draft DPR has been submitted by the consultant. After the tender process, the IWAI has forwarded its recommendations to the MEA on wreck removal and the works are expected to be completed by the end of this month.

On the issue of handling of cargo, the report said that as per the RITES Report, prepared for the IWT on river Kaladan, the cargo anticipated to be handled at the terminal is of general break-bulk category, comprising foodgrains, fertilizers, cement, building materials, agricultural products, consumer goods, timber, etc., in the form of bags, cartons, bundles and logs.

In the absence of detailed traffic studies and forecasts, the port terminals� facilities were planned for annual throughput of one lakh tonnes cargo volume through Sittwe. Out of this, 60 to 70 per cent of the cargo is assumed to be transferred to IWT mode at Sittwe for transportation to the northeastern states and the balance for local distribution.

The report said that the road component of the project remains slow and there is need for expediting the work.

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