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Mizoram gets road link aid

Guwahati, Feb. 21: The World Bank will finance a $128 million road project to improve Mizoram’s connectivity with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The project called Mizoram State Roads II — Regional Transport Connectivity Project — is expected to improve the intra-state network and boost road connectivity to Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Sources said the project is on the lines of the Centre’s Twelfth Five Year Plan approach, which aims to develop a more balanced multi-modal transport network to link the Northeast and special-category states to the rest of the country.

“Residents of Mizoram will benefit from the increased connectivity both within the state and potential regional connectivity to Bangladesh and Myanmar. The residents of the Northeast, Bangladesh and Myanmar and countries beyond should benefit from the increased connectivity which is expected to result in increased trade and economic development,” the project information document said.

With a population of just over one million and spread over around 21,087 square km, Mizoram which has borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, is one of the least densely populated but among the poorest states, ranking 26 out of 28 states in terms of per capita GDP with about 50 per cent people living below the poverty line.

Sources said the project is likely to get board approval by May-end and the bank will fund the entire scheme.

The project has two components — improvement of priority cross-border roads and trade-related infrastructure ($120 million) and road sector modernization and performance enhancement through institutional strengthening ($8 million).

The Centre had requested the bank to provide financing for about 450km of roads to enhance connectivity in Mizoram. The roads proposed under the project are in Aizawl, Mamit, Champhai, Serchhip and Lunglei districts of Mizoram. “Mizoram’s road network is poor and under-developed and of the lowest density in the country. Key issues and challenges in the road sector include inadequate sector funding, inadequate maintenance, weak planning for investments, outdated road engineering practices and business procedure and poor road safety management,” the report said.

However, since the roads are in varying degrees of readiness, the proposed project will fund 99km of roads that are design-ready or with studies at an advanced stage as well as funding for preparation studies for the remaining 330km, which could be considered for a follow-on project or additional financing when the designs are ready.

The roads being widened include the 30km section of Lunglei–Tlabung–Kawrpuichhuah Road on the Indo-Bangladesh border, 27.5km on the Champhai-Zokhawthar Road on the Myanmar border and alignment of the 41.7km section from Chhumkhum to Chawngte to connect to border roads with Bangladesh to the west and Myanmar to the south.