Unlocking Potential: Opportunities in the north-eastern states

Opportunities in the north-eastern states

The incorporation of National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corpora­tion Limited (NHIDCL) has resulted in an increased level of activity in the north-eastern region’s road sector. NHIDCL undertakes nat­ional highway and strategic road projects for the seven sister states of the Northeast, along with Sikkim, West Bengal, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttara­khand and Hi­ma­chal Pradesh.

As of October 30, 2021, NHIDCL is en­ga­ged in the development of 420 projects spanning a length of about 14,116 km, at an estimated cost of Rs 2.2 trillion. Of these, civil wor­ks are ongoing for 278 projects spanning 5,692 km, while detailed project reports are being prepared for the remaining 142 projects for 8,424 km.

State-wise upcoming opportunities in the Northeast

India Infrastructure Research has tracked a total of 370 projects from NHIDCL’s project archives across the 13 north-eastern states in the country (as of August 2021). The upcoming projects, covering a length of approximately 8,725 km, are currently at various stages of implementation (announced, awarded and under bidding).

Assam is the front runner with an upcoming portfolio of 69 projects. These projects will co­ver a length of approximately 2,857 km at an investment requirement of Rs 471 billion. It is followed by Manipur with 34 projects (1,698 km, Rs 197 billion).

Stage-wise, around 3.51 per cent of the total planned length has been awarded and is awaiting construction, while 6.56 per cent of the total length is currently at the bidding stage. Meanwhile, in terms of cost, 3.99 per cent of the projects, entailing an investment of Rs 78.25 billion, are currently under bidding, while 3.55 per cent of the projects, entailing an in­ve­st­ment of Rs 69.65 billion, have been awarded and are awaiting construction.

Going ahead, under the National Infras­tr­uc­ture Pipeline, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways plans to take up about 131 new na­tional highway projects at an estimated cost of about Rs 841.93 billion through other implementing agencies such as NHIDCL, state public works departments and the Border Roads Organisation within the next three years, in the north-eastern states.

International connection

NHIDCL is also undertaking several critical international connectivity projects in order to en­hance road connectivity with neighbouring countries and facilitate trade and commerce. The cen­tral government inaugurated the India-Ban­gladesh Friendship Bridge (Maitri Setu) over the Feni river at Sabroom in south Tripura on March 9, 2021.

Key challenges

One of the major challenges faced by NHIDCL is the difficult topography in the region. The region comprises mountainous and difficult terrains and receives heavy rainfall, thereby resulting in a working season of only four-five months in a year. In addition, land acquisition remains a perennial challenge, leading to implementation delays and cost escalations.

Most of NHIDCL’s projects are executed on an engineering, procurement and construction basis, wherein a contractor is engaged to take up the civil works and an engineer from the au­thority is appointed to supervise the progress. The work of the authority engineer also needs to be cross-checked, requiring greater effort and more time.

Future potential

Going forward, NHIDCL, through its many pro­jects across challenging terrains, initiatives and skill development programmes, is opening up new avenues of socio-economic growth and pro­gress for the people at an unprecedented pace.

The corporation has also emphasised skill development and is upskilling workers at its project sites in the north-eastern region under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana in collaboration with the National Skill Develop­ment Corporation. In January 2022, the Minis­try of Skill Development and Entrepre­neurship launched the third phase: PMKVY 3.0. It will encourage and promote skill development throughout the country to address industry needs, meet market demands and impart skills in services.