Construction of the proposed 1700-kilometre long ‘Frontier Highway’ running almost parallel to the McMahon Line – the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and Chinese-occupied Tibet (CoT) will start in a few months’ time.
The Union Government invited bids on Thursday (4 January) for the construction of a 121 kilometre stretch of this strategic highway that will start from Tawang in northwest Arunachal Pradesh and end at Vijaynagar in the southeastern part of the state.
The massive Rs 27,000 crore project was envisaged by present Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju when he was the Minister of State for Home Affairs in 2015.
Even after it received a cabinet nod after China raised objections to the project that will enable swift movement of soldiers and military hardware to the LAC, there had been little movement on the project till now.
The cost of construction of this 121-kilometre stretch, which includes a 17-kilometre-long bridge, has been pegged at Rs 2200 crore.
It is learnt that the process of shortlisting bids and awarding the final contract will be wrapped up in a couple of months’ time and the construction will start by March-April this year.
Notices inviting bids for constructing other stretches of the crucial highway will also be invited soon.
By the third quarter of this year, construction work on nearly all stretches of this proposed highway will start. The deadline for completing the highway is the end of 2027.
“I am quite sure this deadline will be adhered to. I have been told by the Union Government that this project is being accorded top priority and various central agencies will be monitoring the progress very closely,” Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu told leading news portal Swarajya.
The Frontier Highway will also connect with the 2407-kilometre Trans-Arunachal Highway that follows a roughly similar alignment as the Frontier Highway but is located further south.
About 1811 kilometres of the Trans-Arunachal Highway already exists in the form of national and state highways which are now being broadened and connected. Construction of the new 596 kilometre stretch of this highway is going on and expected to be completed by the end of this year or early next year.
Just before his retirement on 31 December, the then eastern army commander (GOC-in-C of Indian Army’s Eastern Command) Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita had said that the massive and ambitious highway projects in Arunachal Pradesh will be completed in four years’ time.
“Once that happens, we would have not only neutralised the advantage that China had in terms of border infrastructure, but will be in a better position than China at many places and in many aspects,” he had told Swarajya.
Apart from the main Frontier Highway, an additional 1000 kilometres of roads will be constructed to connect district and sub-divisional headquarters as well as important places with the Frontier Highway.
Construction of these roads will start as soon as the contracts for most stretches of the Frontier Highway are awarded. This will cost an additional Rs 13,000 crore.
“The Frontier Highway will be an engineering marvel and the latest technology will be deployed for its construction. It will not only be of immense strategic importance, but will also encourage tourism, provide livelihood opportunities and boost the economy of the border areas,” said Chief Minister Khandu.