Joshi lists road bottlenecks

Guwahati/New Delhi, Feb. 5: Union minister for road transport and highways C.P. Joshi today said delay in pre-construction activities and law and order problems were impeding the progress of major road development schemes in the Northeast.

He told reporters here today that he had reviewed the projects with all the government agencies concerned to identify the bottlenecks in their implementation in the region so that corrective steps could be taken.

During the review meeting at Assam Administrative Staff College yesterday, deliberations were held on wide-ranging issues, including tackling delay in pre-construction activities such as land acquisition, shifting of utilities, forest and environment clearance as well as law and order problems, which also cause delay at times.

Joshi said capacity building of state PWDs was identified as an area of immediate concern. In this context, his ministry will hold workshops and training programmes to ensure time-bound execution of the projects.

On the special accelerated road development programme for North East region (SARDP-NE), which aims at building 10,141km of road network in the region, he said phase A would cover 6,418km at an estimated cost of Rs 33,688 crore.

"Work is being executed by state PWDs, BRO, NHAI and the Union ministry of road transport and highways. So far, about 1,000km of roads has been completed. Phase A is targeted for completion by June 2016 and phase B is at conceptual stage," he said.

The SARDP project was taken up in 2005 to provide connectivity to all the 88 district headquarters in the Northeast by at least two-lane roads. The other and more important motive was to provide roads to the areas of "strategic importance", especially along the border.

In July last year, the minister had issued stringent orders that enough supervisory staff of the additional director-general should be posted in the area to monitor work. No senior staff from Delhi remains in the region.

This is the first time in decades that a road minister has visited the Northeast to hold a review meeting, which is usually held in New Delhi.

Yesterday's meeting was attended by Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki, PWD ministers of other northeastern states, senior officials of the ministry of road transport and highways, Border Roads Organisation (BRO), National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and representatives of contracting agencies.

Tuki mooted a work calendar based on the climatic conditions of the region for implementing the infrastructure projects like completing formalities during the rainy months and executing ground work in the dry months.

He said delay in finalisation and sanction of projects, at the state and central levels, leads to cost overruns and delay is project implementation. To overcome the hurdle, he suggested sensitisation of bureaucrats and technocrats and imbibing in them work culture, an official source said today.

He also asserted the importance of erstwhile Stilwell Road in the context of India's Look East Policy. Besides key intra-state highways, he sought support for the 25km Passang-Nyapin Road with two bridges and the Tawang-Lumla-Bleting-Tashigang-Guwahati Road via Bhutan.

Vijay Chibber, secretary, ministry of road transport and highways, pulled up the states over their slow pace of expenditure. He told the states that the Centre provides them with ample budget and they should spend it.

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