The current lacklustre mood of the nation could well be revitalised with a clutch of gamechanging projects. Here are 10 for consideration:
National River Linking Project
The National River Linking Project (NRLP) was mooted by the Vajpayee government in 2002 to artificially link 14 Himalayan rivers in northern India and 16 peninsular rivers in southern India. The idea first emerged in the nineteenth century and was again resurrected when Captain Dinshaw Dastur suggested a “Garland Canal” in 1974. In 2009, it was scrapped citing high cost, environmental concerns, human displacement issues and effects on biodiversity. NRLP could help mitigate regional imbalances caused due to frequent floods and droughts. The project would also lead to fresh inland navigational routes, new sources of hydro power and create millions of hectares of irrigated land.
The Kalpasar Project envisions building a 30 km-long dam across the Gulf of Khambat, from Kalatalav in Bhavnagar district in Saurashtra to Aladar in Bharuch district of south Gujarat. The 10-lane road link proposed to be set up over the dam would significantly reduce travel distance between the two regions and open up Narmada as an inland waterway route. The reservoir formed by the dam will include a freshwater basin and a tidal basin. The 2,000-sq km freshwater lake would collect and store water from seven key rivers in Gujarat and be used for irrigation, drinking and industrial purposes. Other benefits would include reclamation of saline land, recharging of groundwater levels and development of tourism. The tidal basin has the potential to generate 5,000-6,000 Mw of tidal electricity. Environmental concerns and technical complexities are still being investigated. This visionary project is believed to be a Narendra Modi favourite!
Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant
The 9,900-Mw Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant, when fully commissioned by the Nuclear Power Corporation, is expected to be the largest power plant in India and the largest nuclear power plant in the world. The uranium will be supplied by the French company Areva that will also supply the reactor units, reported to be the largest in the world. The total cost of the project is about $18 billion. The government has planned five such nuclear parks, each with a 10,000 Mw capacity, at various locations including this first one at Jaitapur in Mahrashtra. India plans to increase its nuclear generation capacity to 63,000 Mw by 2032.
Delhi-Srinagar Direct Rail Link
The 345 km extension of the existing Delhi-Jammu link to Srinagar has been under consideration for over two decades, but the project has gathered momentum only once it was declared a national project in 2002. One of the most technically complex engineering projects to be undertaken in India, the link will remedy the lack of suitable connectivity to Kashmir. Two of the four links forming the “Kashmir Railway” are operational, while the other two (under construction) are likely to be completed by 2017. This link will be a huge milestone in efforts to reach out to the Kashmiri populace and give a fillip to economic development in Jammu and Kashmir.
Samudra Setu — India-Sri Lanka Bridge
The project is about the construction of a land-bridge linking Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Dhanushkhodi in India. It is a fourlane bridge along with a single railway line. In addition to promoting tourism and trade, the project is likely to open significant investment opportunities and provide access to various transhipment sea-ports in Sri Lanka. Interestingly, this project was first conceived in the early 1900s. A rail line was constructed by India till Dhanushkodi and by Sri Lanka till Talaimannar. However, the two sides were on different gauges at that time and the connecting sea-bridge could not be built. Mention of the project evokes mythological and environmental passions, but now with the LTTE threat over, and a re-energised Sri Lanka, it is appropriate to reconsider it.
Western Dedicated Freight Corridor
The Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) extends 1,534 km from Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) to Dadri via Vadodara-Ahmedabad-Palanpur-Phulera-Rewari. The corridor will cater to container traffic between the west-coast ports and the northern hinterland. This route contributes 50 to 60 per cent of total container traffic at all Indian ports and is currently plagued with low rail share due to saturation in line capacity. The double-line electrified corridor designed for carrying up to 25T axle loads at speeds of 100 kmph is likely to result in significant cost and time savings by shifting container traffic from road to rail, double stacking of containers and faster movement.
Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor
The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is envisioned as a “global manufacturing and trading hub” with an influence area of 150-200 km on both sides of the proposed 1,534 km WDFC. The project aims to expand the manufacturing and services base in the region through development of international quality, investment friendly, integrated investment regions supported with high quality road and rail connectivity to and from ports and logistics hubs. Once complete, the development is expected to double employment, triple industrial output and quadruple exports from the region over a five-year time frame.
Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor
The Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) extends 1,839 km from Dankuni to Ludhiana via Sonnagar-MughalsaraiKanpur and, like WDFC, is designed to carry up to 25T axle loads at speeds of 100 kmph. In addition to reducing the time and cost for container movement, it is also likely to boost industrial growth along the corridor since it passes through various industrial clusters and provides a direct link for carrying raw and finished goods from industrial clusters to west-coast sea ports via the connection to the WDFC at Dadri. It will also service up to 75 per cent of the demand for coal for power plants in the eastern and northern region.
Mumbai as an International Finance Centre (IFC)
This proposition has been presented very forcefully and professionally by the ministry of finance in an elaborate report. The finance minister himself had strongly endorsed the idea at a well-attended gathering in Mumbai in the summer of 2007. The idea is for Mumbai to replicate a London, New York or Singapore; and provide competition to other aspirants like Shanghai, Dubai, Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo. The exorbitant cost of real estate in Mumbai is abig inhibitor. Addressing this would involve repealing the Urban Land Ceiling Act, and fresh thinking on Floor Space Index (FSI). The city’s administrative structure would have to be revamped. In China, the four largest cities have been given provincial status; much like Delhi. One suggestion floating around is to turn Mumbai into a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong. This would release a burst of energy — administrative, financial and political. The central policy focus needs to be on the empowerment of the city government to take economic and service-delivery decisions, as envisaged in the 74th Amendment, and realigning central and state financial allocations. Finally, the new airport would help too!
Chittagong Port to Agartala (Tripura) Road Corridor
Chittagong, an international sea port in Bangladesh, is only about 75 km from Tripura’s border town Sabroom. Efforts to improve road and rail connectivity between Sabroom and Agartala are already at various stages of implementation. The link will boost trade from the whole of north-east India to other south-east Asian countries, besides increasing cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
The author is Chairman of Feedback Infrastructure.These views are personal. firstname.lastname@example.org