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.
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.
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.
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.