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Call for think-tank of developments in NER

NER’s rich in water resources

Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) has recommended a think-tank on the North Eastern Region (NER) at the Central Government level.

“There were several important recommendations discussed in the two day Conference which are essential for physical and social infrastructure in the NER,” he said at the conclusion of a two-day conference held in Guwahati.

Instead of connecting different cities and urban centers in the remote and less-developed areas, the ideal approach should be to develop it in the framework of corridors for regional development.

The conference, “Physical and Social Infrastructure for Regional Development”, was organized by Finance Ministry on 14-15 May 2018.

Prof. Chaturvedi said pointed out:

The First Point was low integration due to the land-locked nature of the Region. Historically, the North East had strong trade linkages with the countries in South-East Asia and was a prosperous region.
Post-Independence, the connectivity links were broken due to the creation of independent nations in the South Asian region. As a result, the NER became land-locked which stalled the pace of development.
However, with fresh initiatives there is a greater recognition of opening of the arteries of connectivity both within NER and with neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, etc.

Secondly, the recently launched the ‘NITI Forum for the North East’ which envisages that development projects in the NER will be based on the concept of “HIRA” (Highways, Inland Waterways, Railways and Airways).
Emphasis will also be made on Education, Health and Skill Development in the region. Assam 2030 is a case in point. In addition, Horticulture, Tourism, Food Processing, use of Bamboo and Made in North-East will be developed through Five Mission Mode Projects in a time-bound manner.
There is a need to revive and restore maximum routes, including air strips, for better connectivity.
Focus is also on connecting with Bangladesh (4 projects), Nepal (2 projects) apart from Trans Asians Railway line on which three projects are being undertaken and for two lines survey is on.

Water is a great strength in NER and should be leveraged in the most optimum manner. India has around 111 waterways, 20 of which are in NER, and nearly 15 are in Assam. Waterway would significantly lower transportation cost and promote trade. Dredging and maintenance of dredging is required to develop the waterways.
Moreover, Inland Waterways (IWT) projects could able to mop up financial resources from the market through issue of bonds. Three ‘I’s are important: Institutions; Information and Infrastructure.

Digital connectivity is the biggest challenge for the NER because of mountain terrain. Hence, special attention needs to be paid for extending digital connectivity across the region especially digital solutions for remote areas.

Apparently, supply-driven approach to infrastructure development has overlooked the local developmental aspirations in NER. Besides mega infrastructure projects, micro-interventions like e.g. storage facilities could help optimize the utilization of local resources for promoting entrepreneurship and job creation.
In this regard, the important point is to have a bottom-up approach rather than the top-down approach for developing the required infrastructure. Maximum vale addition at the doorstep is required. For example, single-crop agriculture in lower Assam restricts the choice of reaping the benefits of regional value chains.

Keeping in view the special geographical dimensions of the region, there is need to have in place grass root R&D facilities at par with global standards. Local engagement is the key.

Local industries in NER are losing their competitiveness due to global competition, poor infrastructure and unfavorable government rules and regulations. Proper pricing, efficient supply of raw materials and product diversification can support the local industries to catch-up. Agri-based value chains have higher prospects in the NER.

NER has great potential for developing Green and Clean Energy based on generating Solar Energy.

Funding institutions like World Bank, ADB, etc fund projects in developed States like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and so on whereas the States like Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim those need resources for infrastructure development continue to face the problem of low resource mobilization.
There should be provisions for addressing the specific financing requirements of the aspirational areas so as to ensure balanced regional development in the NER. UNQUOTE.

Prof. Chaturvedi said “The recent initiative of NITI to establish a special forum for NER is a step in the right direction. However, I would like to add that RIS is also taking initiative to put in place a special institutional mechanism of the experts from the NER to articulate what NER needs for ensuring its holistic economic and social growth.”

The conference was organized by the Ministry in collaboration with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

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