North Eastern part of India has immense latent potential which can be harnessed to ensure equitable growth across the country. With 5339 kms of International borders and surrounded by some of the fastest growing economies of the world, the North East is located in a uniquely advantageous geographic position. However, to be able to leverage the unique advantages, and ensure inclusive growth, some key enablers like roads, railways, water ways, airports need to be strengthened. Development of connectivity infrastructure will have huge multiplier effects on the region’s growth besides paving the way for better economic and strategic integration of the region with rest of the country and also with neighbouring countries.
In order to identify and highlight the connectivity needs of the region, to catalyse the evolution of a comprehensive connectivity road map for the region, explore financing options and rope in private sector capabilities, FICCI organised a two day “North East Connectivity Summit” from 27th to 28th November 2014 in Guwahati.
The summit was the first ever platform focused on policy debate and facilitation of investments for connectivity infrastructure in the North East Frontier by focusing on important areas of infrastructure development like Roads, Railways, Inland Waterways, Airports and development of an integrated development corridor connecting mainland India with South East Asia.
The North East, with a total area of 2,62,179sq km occupies about 8 percent of India’s total geographical area and are populated by about 3.8 % of India’s population. The region is rich in natural resources, enjoys a demographic advantage with a large young population and is surrounded by over 5300 kms of international borders. Despite the advantages however, the region has lagged behind during the 65 years since independence, primarily because of a disconnect with its neighboring countries.
While it is connected by the narrow chickens neck corridor with mainland India the regions connectivity with neighboring countries, with whom it shares over 5300 kms of international borders, is almost non-existent. Intraregional connectivity is also far from adequate, although roads have seen substantial development in the past few years, slow pace of development of railways, air transport and Inland Water Transport has ensured that in large parts of the region inadequate connectivity is still a major impediment for development.
Massive investments need to be made to create new connectivity infrastructure and upgrade the existing ones. Government alone cannot fulfil these needs and therefore it is important to rope in the private sector – national and international companies and also multilateral agencies to help finance and execute large scale connectivity projects in the region.
To build consensus on the connectivity needs of the region.
To evolve a comprehensive connectivity development roadmap for the region Brain storm financing options for infrastructure development in the North East.
Roads: Intra-regional connectivity needs to be improved substantially and road connectivity with the neighbouring countries needs to be re-established. One of the key proposals in the roads sector is to develop a 4000 km ring road connecting all the north eastern states.
Railways:The region has about 2600 kms of railway lines, mostly in the states of Assam and Tripura. Five of the eight state capitals are yet to be connected by railway and international rail connectivity is non-existent. Some key Railway projects that need to be expedited / taken up are connecting all state Capitals, Indian part of the Trans Asian Railway, Border railway line along the India Myanmar Border, and restoring rail connectivity with Bangladesh.
Inland Waterways: The Brahmaputra and Barak River Systems which formed the backbone of connectivity during the pre-independence period could provide a very cost effective mode of transportation and help overcome the transportation bottleneck. It is proposed to develop 20 port townships along the length of these two rivers and fully develop intraregional connectivity.
Air Connectivity: In the early 1970s the North East had 17 functioning airports; today this number has come down to 10. Given the nature of the terrain, Air Connectivity can play a vital role in catalyzing development in far flung areas of the region.
Economic Integration and Development Nodes: It is proposed that 50 economic integration and development nodes be set up across the region in tandem with development of transportation corridors.