NGT notice to Centre on plea seeking stay on Signature Bridge construction

July 11, 2014

Express News Service | New Delhi

The plea claimed that the construction of the bridge without an impact assessment and environmental clearance will result in large-scale damage to the Yamuna.
The plea claimed that the construction of the bridge without an impact assessment and environmental clearance will result in large-scale damage to the Yamuna. (Source: Express Archive)


The Signature Bridge was envisioned as a link between North and East Delhi.

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre on a plea that sought a stay on the Signature Bridge project across the river Yamuna at Wazirabad, until environmental clearance is granted.

A bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar sought response from Ministry of Environment and Forests, Delhi government, Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) on a plea filed by environment activist Vikrant Kumar Tongad.

“Notice be issued to the respondents by registered post/acknowledgment. Requisites to be filed within three days from today (Thursday),” the bench said, while ordering respondents to file responses within three days and listed the matter to August 19.

The Signature Bridge, which is being built across the Yamuna, was envisioned as a link between North and East Delhi. The project, which has been under way for the last nine years, is expected to be completed by the year-end. The Rs 1,131-crore project, which is being executed by DTTDC, is intended to replace the existing bridge at Wazirabad. Officials said the bridge will have a bow-shaped steel pylon 154 metres high.

But in his petition, Tongad has claimed that the construction of bridge is covered under Clause A of the Schedule of Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, which mandates prior environmental clearance from the regulatory authority concerned.

He said the construction of the bridge without an impact assessment and environmental clearance will result in large-scale damage to the river. The petition seeks to “direct the respondents to obtain the environmental clearance for Signature Bridge after conducting proper environment impact assessment of the project”.



Ministry looks to Japanese funds for highway projects in North East

December 18, 2013


 NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is trying to tie up Japanese funds for projects in the North-East that had difficulty in attracting private sector investment in the past, said officials aware of the development.

These projects include highway stretches in states such as Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam and Meghalaya – in some cases they lie close to the Myanmar and Bangladesh border – as well as bridge projects over the Brahmaputra in Assam.

The ministry will seek assistance from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan’s official financial assistance arm, for the projects.

“We have had discussions with the Japanese government and they have shown interest in the proposal. We have narrowed down projects and would ask the Department of Economic Affairs to include this in the JICA Rolling Plan. JICA can assist with the preparation of the detailed project reports (DPRs),” said a road ministry official  with the issue.

Another ministry official confirmed the development, saying foreign funding is necessary since domestic investment has not been forthcoming so far.

At present, the JICA is conducting a study in consultation with the highways ministry to identify specific cooperation areas on developing connectivity, including highways in the North-East. JICA has begun gathering data on transport infrastructure development for regional connectivity in and around South Asia since August 2013 to assess the current situation and chart out a plan for regional cooperation in the inland transport sector in South Asia.

“The rapid economic growth in South Asia, reforms in Myanmar and various development movements in South East Asia, including establishment of ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, have generated strong momentum for enhancing the regional connectivity through development of cross border infrastructure, both within and between countries in South Asia and South-East Asia.

“Considering the above, especially in the Indian context, there’s no doubt that the North-East is the most crucial region in terms of connectivity across borders to countries like Myanmar and further on. Among other things, the study team intends to identify requirements for transport infrastructure in the North Eastern region of India,” said Shinya Ejima,   JICA’s chief representative in India.

“JICA’s study would be aligned with India’s Look-East policy as well as along the lines of a broader cooperation among South Asian nations and Japan,” he added. The highways ministry is also working with the Asian Development Bank (ABD) to develop and expand India’s road network.from the North-East into Myanmar.


IDSA COMMENT- Border Roads Organisation in the North-East: Need for Priority

December 17, 2013

Gautam Sen


The Defence Minister of India had assured the Parliament in May 2012 that 82 strategic roads in the north-east were being double-laned, as priority, to provide effective logistical facility to India`s defence forces in the Arunachal Pradesh border with China. India’s road network in the region constructed and maintained by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) involves nearly 11700 km of roads. BRO was conceived and raised in 1960 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with the objective of speedy development of road network and infrastructure in the northern and north-eastern border areas of India. A substantial part are General Staff (GS) roads, i.e., roads which primarily serve logistical needs of the defence forces and are funded by the Union Ministry of Surface Transport (MOST) budget while the others are roads of economic and strategic importance (assets of the states) constructed with non-MOST funds but within the purview of the BRO.

The importance of the road network in the north-east needs no emphasis. India is now raising the 17 Mountain Corps at Panagarh in West Bengal to augment its strategic strike capability vis-à-vis China. The BRO is the key instrument to realise the road network objective and provide the required logistical capability to this Corps. But is the BRO adequately attuned towards achieving this objective?

According to an official testifying in the Parliament on the 8th Report of the Standing Committee on Defence (2009-2010), “…two years back the philosophy of our nation was that we should not make roads as near to the border as possible. That philosophy is telling today very clearly as to why we do not have roads. It is only two or three years back that we suddenly decided a change of philosophy and said no, we must go as far forward as possible.”1 This Parliamentary Standing Committee Report had succinctly summed up the hiatus between the strategic needs of India and concomitant priorities and actual functioning of the BRO.

The Ministry of Defence had then indicated to the Committee that more funds would be allocated to the BRO and the organization was to be provided with adequate manpower.(2) The fact, however, is that the BRO does not suffer from any resource constraint and also has an enabling organizational structure, with its functionaries having adequate administrative and financial powers. The BRO`s expenditure on GS works has increased from Rs 830 crores in 2003-04 to Rs 2773 crores in 2012-13.2 However, the BRO could spend Rs 2773 crores only in the last financial year of its budget (BE) allocation of Rs 3300 crores on GS works.3

The BRO project chief engineers execute their projects by engaging hired civilian labour in the construction companies. The availability of labour with the task forces and the construction companies is not an issue. The chief engineers have institutionally an internal financial advisory support element and are vested with full powers to decide on the labour rates. In other words, neither fund availability nor manpower resources may be deemed as constraints for the BRO in achieving its GS works targets. The apparent shortfall in the BRO`s performance in relation to the logistical needs of the armed forces, is therefore, required to be carefully examined.

As a line organization, i.e., an organization which implements programmatic functions, the BRO has had a degree of autonomy in its administrative and financial matters. The availability of financial resources over the years has been substantial and incremental. At times there may have been less allocation of funds in the short-term, in relation to the estimates of the works planned for implementation but this, however, has to be viewed in the backdrop of an apparent disconnect between the formulation of annual plans of the BRO and its executing capability. Environmental constraints by way of local socio-political milieu-generated pressures and related governmental clearances have also occasionally militated against the BRO achieving its targets and security objectives. The above referred Parliamentary Standing Committee had observed that in 2010 the BRO was faced with a situation wherein, within its present capability, the planned quantum of GS works was beyond its executing capability. The present situation does seem to be much different. In this backdrop, there is a view in the higher echelons of Ministry of Defence that the BRO chief engineers of their projects take on the responsibility for executing other than GS works, i.e., works for other state governments, civil departments but only with prior administrative approval of the Centre. This will prevent the BRO from spreading its resources too thin and at the expense of the GS works/India-China Border Roads (ICBRs).

Without a focused approach and judicious prioritization, the BRO may not be able to achieve its Long-Term Perspective Plan-1, which involves the construction of 61 ICBRs (based on the India-China Study Group Report) involving a total road length of 3394 kilometers estimated at more than Rs 6500 crores. This would be to the detriment of India`s security, particularly when a remote county, Medog in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has been recently connected by an all-weather road with Zhamag, a place bordering Arunachal Pradesh, with much fanfare.4

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.



Over 6000km roads approved for Arunachal

December 13, 2013

TNN |  


ITANAGAR: The Union ministry of road transport and highways has approved the construction of 6,418 km of road under Phase A and the Arunachal package of the Special Accelerated Road Development Project-North East (SARDP-NE), minister of state for road transport and highways, Sarvey Sathyanarayana has said.”Of the 10,141 km stretch to be developed under the project, 6,418 km have been approved by the Centre for implementation under Phase A of SARDP-NE and the Arunachal package of roads and highways, while a detailed project report has been sought for the remaining 3,723 km under Phase B of the programme,” the minister explained when questioned by Lok Sabha member Takam Sanjoy, official sources said on Wednesday.

The minister informed that Phase A and the Arunachal package should be completed by March 2017. While conceding that delays in land acquisition, obtaining environment and forest clearance and poor mobilization by contractors have affected timely completion of infrastructure projects in the northeast, the minister assured that non-performing contractors have been debarred from participating in future works.

“The ministry has posted one additional director general for the northeast region at Guwahati, who will be assisted by three chief engineers posted at Guwahati, Agartala and Itanagar, to expedite the formalities before construction,” he added.

Connectivity of northeast India with Bangladesh to be developed

November 11, 2013


Agartala, : Surface connectivity between India’s northeast region and Bangladesh would be further developed for the economic development of the region, a union minister said here Sunday.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has recently directed to the concerned ministries to further improve the rail, road, and air connectivity in the northeastern region. The surface connectivity between the region and Bangladesh are being developed,” Oscar Fernandes, Union road transport and highways minister told reporters.
He said: “The central government would accord top priority in developing road, rail and air connectivity in the northeastern region. To strengthen the economy of the northeastern region, improvement of the connectivity within the region and with Bangladesh is very essential.”
Fernandes said that the union commerce ministry would provide funds for the construction of a bridge over the river Feni in southern Tripura’s Sabroom, to get access of the Chittagong international sea port.
The Chittagong port in southeast Bangladesh is just 75 km away from the southern Tripura’s border town Sabroom, 135 km south of Agartala.
The central minister accompanied by senior officials arrived here Sunday and laid the foundation for the double lane of the National Highway 44, the life-line of Tripura’s surface link with the rest of the country.
Responding to the demands of the Tripura government, the minister said that an additional national highway would be developed between Tripura-Assam and rest of the northeastern region. For this, the Tripura government would arrange required lands.
Earlier, the union minister held separate meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Finance Minister Badal Chowdhury, and senior officials of the central and state Public Works Departments. He reviewed the progress of the highway projects in Tripura.