Ashish Tandon says the Trilateral Highway connecting India- Myanmar-Thailand will usher in a new era of growth
This century clearly belongs to Asia. Consider the growing market size and the growth potential of China and India that have earned them a position at the centre of the Asian century. These two countries have tripled their share of their global economy. There is however, no denying that the USA is still the largest economy in the world. On the other hand, Europe, which comprises of the United Kingdom, France and Germany, is around 50 per cent the size of USA economy.
Rise of the Asian power
The Asian countries still have a huge potential as they are in the growth phase as most of these economies are continuing to grow at healthy pace. India and China, the two largest populations in the world, would continue to evolve as not just solution providers but also as consumers for global brands.
Asian countries like Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan are embarking on their journeys towards globalisation. They, therefore, present a huge opportunity to leading Asian economies like India to help them in this journey and have a mutually beneficial relationship.
As these countries become more accessible by roads, it will not just boost movement of goods but also people. The trilateral highway will open doors to medical and educational tourism, among others.
The Highway to Cumulative Prosperity
Bilateral trade between India and Myanmar has expanded significantly from USD12.4 million in 1980-81 to USD 1070.88 million in 2010-11. India's imports from Myanmar are dominated by agricultural items (beans, pulses and forest based products form 90 per cent of our imports). India's main exports to Myanmar are primary and semifinished steel and pharmaceuticals.
Under the perspective of the Look East Policy (LEP), the Indian government has laid emphasis on encouraging & enhancing bilateral, multilateral regional trade, commerce, and tourism. The northeastern region of India, and in particular, Moreh, a border town in the Indian state of Manipur has a great potential to develop as an export hub, linking the rest of India to the south eastern Asian nations. This route has a long history of social, cultural and economic exchanges. Myanmar is source of one-third of India's imports in pulses and one-fifth in timber. India's main exports to these countries include pharma, machinery, vehicles, plastics and cotton while main imports are pulses, rubber, wood, mineral oil and spices. Thus the opening of this highway is likely to boost trade potential of India, Myanmar and Thailand which at present is largely carried out through sea routes, adding to substantial cost and time.
The highway between Yagyi to Kalewa (Starts at mile post 40/0 at the village of Yagyi and ends at Kalewa at mile 115/ 5 near the Myit Thar river Bridge) is located entirely in the Sagaing region of Myanmar. The road was originally constructed between years 2000-2003 by the Myanmar Corps of Military Engineers. It was opened to traffic in the financial year (April-March) 2003- 2004. In 2010-2011, maintenance of the section starting from Monywa to Kalewa length was handed over to the Public Works, Ministry of construction, Myanmar. However, currently the Public Works has granted the maintenance works for the first 40 mile of the road, between Monywa to Yagyi to a private company, Monywa Group Co. Ltd. under BOT system and hence it does not form a part of this project. The remaining section between Yagyi to Kalewa is being maintained by the Public Works, through its, "Airfield Construction Special Unit (3)".
The Project road passes through hilly terrain between start (mile 40/0) to mile 58/4 and mostly plain/ rolling terrain in the rest of the stretch. The land use is predominantly agricultural and forest. The general condition of road surface is poor and has earthen and gravel top in majority of the length. Egis in India has prepared the feasibility study for this stretch of the Trilateral Highway.
The main objectives of the consultancy services include:
- Preparation of Feasibility Report covering designs and drawings, supporting data and details required for the tender for construction.
- Conducting adequate surveys and engineering investigations for collection and submission of the required supporting data for the detailed designs as per relevant IRC standards / good engineering practice.
- Value engineering and design optimisation - to suggest most economical design solutions.
- Preparation of BOQ and Cost Estimates based on designs, drawings and other supporting data
- Provide support during procurement process
Catalyst of change
It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step. The journey of India and Myanmar into the next level could be the step taken by India to develop the trilateral highway connecting India- Myanmar and Thailand and could mark the beginning of a new era of collaboration between these three important Asian countries.
To understand the strategic importance of the trilateral highway, here are some factoids:
- The President of India, acting through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), has embarked upon an ambitious program to construct a trilateral highway connecting India with Myanmar and Thailand. The proposed route of the trilateral highway starts from the Indo-Myanmar border at Moreh in Manipur, India, and passes through Tamu, across the border in Myanmar, to reach Moe Sot at Thailand Myanmar border.
- The project road was originally constructed between 2000 and 2003 by the Myanmar Corps of Military Engineers and was opened to traffic in the financial year (April-March) 2003-2004. In 2010-2011, maintenance of the road from Monywa to Kalewa was handed over to the Public Works, Ministry of Construction, Myanmar.
- The project road has four major bridges, 17 minor bridges, two causeways and 273 culverts. There are four bailey bridges which are in poor condition. Part submergence of superstructure has been observed for minor bridges at km 80+036 and km 100+863. New minor bridges have been proposed at present causeway locations at km 1+770 and km 2+450. For improvement of road geometrics, new viaducts have been proposed at km 6+280, km 10+694 and km 38+880. The existing minor bridge at km 10+694 is to be dismantled for the construction of viaduct
- The whole terrain is extremely undulating. Although the highest length comes under rolling terrain, its proportion of the whole length is just about 45 per cent, while the rest is plain and mountainous
- Myanmar's economy has been dominated by the agriculture sector which is between 35 and 40 per cent of GDP. Around 70 per cent of the country's population lives in rural areas. The economy still relies on resource-based industries with the biggest contribution to the GDP coming from extractive industries, especially oil and gas, mining, and forest products. Major export items of Myanmar are mineral products like natural gas, precious and semi-precious minerals; agricultural products including rice and rice products, pulses and bean and maize; forest products such as raw rubber, teak and hard woods, and marine products, which could find a huge market in other ASEAN countries
- The total projected traffic is the sum of normal traffic, diverted traffic, generated traffic and induced traffic. An analysis of the traffic data will easily determine the traffic volume in the next 20 years which is estimated to increase by four times. No doubt, this could be a big boost to the Myanmar economy.
This 3,200-km trilateral highway could open gateways to inter and intra-regional trade in and around Myanmar and its neighbours (India/ Thailand). As a possible catalyst to a new economic and social order, it could be a game changer for India's Northeastern region. It could enhance the connectivity between the Mekong sub-region and India and is an important component in the government's plans to ramp up its "Look East" policy to the newly coined "Act East" policy. It would usher in a new era of possibilities to the stakeholders.