Stretched far across the eastern arm of India, the eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur and Nagaland forming the ‘North Eastern triangle’, are the most unique part of India. These eight states occupy about 8 percent of India’s total geographical area and are bestowed with rich natural resources, which bring in a key ingredient for development – forests cover about 52 percent of the area and are home to the most exotic flora and fauna. The NE shares over 5,300 km of border with neighbouring countries including China, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. The May 2014 elections saw a new minister, Gen. V.K. Singh, as the minister for North East affairs, who envisages a robust regional economic plan to dovetail with new international trade relationships for the North East (NE).
SEVEN SISTERS CORRIDOR
A “Seven sisters Corridor” model of infrastructure, entrepreneurship and foreign policy is currently underway and is taking inspiration from the existing model, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, which is already dramatically changing the landscape of India’s western hinterland.
In the North East, the multi-billion dollar mega infrastructure project has been proposed to provide high speed road connectivity, land for industrial regions and complimentary housing needs, uninterrupted power, access to ports for trading goods, financing for start-up entrepreneurs and small businesses, broadband and telecom access for businesses, and security to people, would link the Seven Sister states of the North East to each other and to adjoining neighbours like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan.
This plan would extend the existing Friendship Road border point at Moreh (Manipur) with Myanmar, and connect two more border towns –Zowkhathar in Mizoram and Avakhung in Nagaland – again with Myanmar.
The corridor’s success will depend on thriving industrial activity being developed around it – not just big private players feeding off the region’s lucrative natural resource base, but more specifically small and medium value-added businesses. With the opening up of Myanmar, the region will be strategically placed to act as a bridge between mainland India and the ASEAN countries.
BIODIVERSITY ZONE & CARBON SINK
Any natural or manmade reservoir that absorbs more carbon than it emits is a carbon sink. The substantial forest cover available in NE India, Myanmar and Bhutan has been playing such a role. With proper management, this region could be converted into one of the most powerful carbon sinks of the world and be retained as a very important biodiversity hotspot of the world.
It is proposed that the contagious and near contagious forest cover in the entire sub region comprising NE India, Myanmar and Bhutan should be managed as a single large Biodiversity Zone cum Carbon Sink.
To establish the region as a biodiversity zone, cooperation between the authorities and stakeholders in NE India, Myanmar, and Bhutan will be of paramount importance.
For the NE to develop at a faster pace and catch up with rest of the country, it is imperative that the artificial isolation that the frontier region has been living through for the past 65 years be ended.
– Ranjit Barthakur, Founding Chairman, Myanmar Matters