Myanmar land issues come in way of Rs 11.77-billion friendship highway

Trilateral highway connectivity between India, Myanmar and Thailand has hit a roadblock as hurdles in land acquisition in most parts of Myanmar have hampered the construction of roads and 71 bridges. The project seeks to connect India with Myanmar and onwards to Thailand and will be its gateway to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

The proposed 1400-km long highway, which would connect Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar, is estimated to be constructed at a budget of Rs 11.77 billion.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for the execution of this project. It is being implemented by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

The contract for up-gradation of a 120 km section of Yagyi-Kalewa in Myanmar to two-lane and another for 237 realignments in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode was bagged by Punj Lloyd, in joint venture with Varaha Infra Ltd, from NHAI for Rs 11.77 billion.

The first 160-km stretch is called the India-Myanmar Friendship Highway. Ircon Infrastructure & Services Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ircon International Ltd under the Ministry of Railways, has been engaged by both the Ministry of External Affairs (India) and Republic of the Union of Myanmar for the infrastructure project.

According to a senior official, “Myanmar is going slow on the project as it has bigger political issues to deal with in their country. The project is not on their priority list.”

Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari recently met the Minister for Communication and Transport of Myanmar U Thant Sin Maung and discussed the status of the upgradation of the Yagyi-Kalewa stretch of the trilateral highway. They also talked about starting an Imphal-Mandalay bus service and a bilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement between the two countries.

NHAI has informed Gadkari the project is running well within time and should be completed ahead of the scheduled date. The highway is expected to be functional by December 2019.

The two countries have operationalised the Land Border Crossing Agreement.

The Yagyi-Kalewa section of the highway would pass through a rocky terrain and include several bridges.