M A I N   N E W S

Road projects along China border behind schedule
Some of them likely to get delayed by around 3 years
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 4
Even as China continues to ramp up infrastructure on its side of the border with India, New Delhi’s progress in building such strategic roads has been dismal.

According to information, the government had planned to build additional 277 roads, with a combined length of 13,100 km, on its side of the border with China by 2012. While work is yet to begin on some 80 projects, another 168 are moving way behind schedule. Only 29 roads have been completed so far.

Poor strategy

13,100 km is the total length of roads that India proposed to build

277 was the count of projects, which were to be completed by March 2012

168 projects, being built by the BRO, are moving way behind schedule

80 of them are yet to witness the beginning of work

29 roads have been completed so far

Now, the entire target of 277 roads may only be met by 2015 — three years behind schedule. In comparison, China is laying a web of roads that run across areas as distant from each other as Skardu in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Kunming in bordering Myanmar. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has been informed by the Defence Ministry that China is double-laning major highways in Tibet. The key is the road to connect Lhasa with Aksai Chin — part of Jammu and Kashmir that was forcefully occupied by China in 1962. This 3,105-km road has three alignments that branch out into various unreachable areas of the Tibetan Plateau and it runs all along the Sino-India border.

China has already constructed roads connecting all its highways to logistic centres and major defence installations that dot the border with India and the line of actual control (LAC) in south eastern J&K. Some of these roads come as close as 1 km of the LAC.

In contrast, India is struggling with forest clearances while the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is handicapped with inadequate support from heavy lift choppers to airlift material to inaccessible areas. Just sample this: the BRO needed to airlift some 4,000 tonne of material last year, no more than 20 per cent has been completed so far. The situation is expected to improve once the 80 MI-17-V medium-lift choppers of the IAF start arriving from Russia. The BRO has been asked to outsource chopper hiring and the DG (Air Operations) of the IAF will put in place a better air support system by the middle of this year. Geographically, the Himalayas in India are steep and snowcapped while those in Tibet are a plateau to which access is much easier and, therefore, the construction activity is also easier.

In order to speed up matters, the Defence Ministry would now get priority in forest clearances while contractors working in remote high altitude areas will get incentive. The BRO has been asked to focus on the 73 roads along the border with China. Notably, the parliamentary committee had tabled a report in the just concluded-session of Parliament, in which it said “there seems to be a sense of complacency on part of the BRO”. The committee rapped the BRO for claiming that it was working faster than organisations like the PWD. 





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