Mumbai: To strengthen connectivity with Southeast Asia, the government is likely to kick-start work on highway from Meghalaya to Myanmar, as part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral pact, from next month.
“We will probably start work on Meghalaya to Myanmar project from next month. The cost of the project is Rs5,000 crore," road transport, highways and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters in Mumbai. India, Thailand and Myanmar are working on a 1,400km long highway that would link the country with Southeast Asia by land for the first time in decades, a move which would give a boost to trade, business, health, education and tourism among the countries.
Further, addressing the conclave on green ports and oil spill management here, the Union minister said the government is planning a waterway connectivity up to Myanmar via Bangladesh using Brahmaputra river, and expects the project to be completed soon. “Waterways are more cost effective than roads and railways and so any goods required to be traded to Myanmar or Bangladesh could be done in a very cost effective manner. This will finish before 2018," Gadkari said.
With the Cabinet approving Rs2,000 crore from a central fund for development of water transport, operationalising at least 10 of the 111 national waterways by next year is on top of the government’s agenda. Massive work worth Rs5,000 crore is already underway on Ganga (1,620km), with World Bank assistance, which is the National Waterway No 1. The work includes development of three multi-modal hubs at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Haldia in West Bengal and Sahebganj in Bihar.
Pitching for environment-friendly initiatives, Gadkari also said that the country could be flooded with electric commercial and passenger vehicles by December, as a move to curb dependence on crude oil and cut emissions. He noted that India needs to encourage electric as well as bio-diesel and ethanol-fuelled vehicles.
On concerns on lack of infrastructure for charging electric vehicles, the minister said, “In Nagpur we started electric vehicles now we have 10 electric charging stations... so the technology is there and if we have more vehicles we will get more charging stations."
Nagpur on Tuesday earned the distinction of becoming the country’s first city with a fleet of 200 electric vehicles, including taxis, buses, e-rickshaw and autos. Gadkari also suggested that shipping corporations should explore use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative source of fuel to save on costs.
The minister also told reporters that he would discuss lowering the goods and services tax (GST) rates on hybrid vehicles with the finance ministry. Under the GST rates, hybrid cars, which are considered eco-friendly, are slated to attract a 15% cess over and above peak rate of 28%, same as those of large luxury cars and sports utility vehicles (SUVs).