Smooth ride on Dawki road

By Naba Bhattacharjee

Considering the importance of road connectivity in overall development of the North-East Region (NER), especially in Meghalaya, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) decided to widen and improve NH-40 starting from Shillong and ending at Dawki. The road provides a vital link to Bangladesh, one of the South-East Asian countries India shares a land boundary with.
The project is located entirely in East Khasi Hills and West Jaintia Hills districts. While screening the socio-economic and environment data and information, it was observed that the indigenous people are present and have collective attachment to the project area. Therefore, there will be adverse impact on majority of the people.
With respect to JICA guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations, an Indigenous People Plan (IPP) including elements laid out in World Bank’s Operational Policy 4.10, it was decided to undertake a social, economic and environment assessment to evaluate the project’s potential positive and adverse effects on the indigenous people and to examine project alternatives where adverse effects may be significant. Accordingly, the assessment was undertaken in 2016.
The study was undertaken by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) responsible for technical cooperation component of Japan’s bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme.
The Japanese government are very particular before sanctioning any project. In this regard decision of funding was finally approved after appraisal of all respective studies. The author was appointed by PADECO as advisor to the various studies. On his advice to engage local NGOs and individuals like Eudora Warjri, a dozen local entities were involved in the appraisal stage under monitoring of Enviro Infra Solutions, Meghalaya Chapter, prior to sanction stage. The engineering and structural DPR with alignment etc was prepared by TRANSYS India.
The decision of funding was finally approved after appraisal of all respective studies from 2016-2017.
The section for study for NH-40 started from Shillong to Dawki, which is a total stretch of 74.6 km. The total distance now stands at 84 km after including five bypasses on the alignment. The first entry point of the study road is on the periphery of the main city and goes on to pass through various rural villages, including forests and agricultural fields; the most distinctive, however, are the deep gorges and precipices which are seen along a major section of the road. The entire section is a one-lane road; the condition of the road is fairly good with few sections being unkempt and ill-maintained. The traffic is especially busy in the entire stretch of the study road since it leads to many tourist destinations in the state.
The following reports were prepared after in-depth study for appraisal by JICA before seeking sanction of the Japanese government.

Indigenous People’s Plan

Indigenous People’s Plan ensures that indigenous people present in or with collective attachment to the project area are fully consulted about, and have opportunities to actively participate in, project design and the determination of project implementation arrangements. The scope and scale of consultation as well as subsequent project planning and documentation processes have been commensurate with the scope and scale of potential project risks and impacts as they may affect Indigenous Peoples.

Environmental/Forest Clearance

Environmental Clearance was not required for this project as per MoEFCC notification, 2013. However, forest clearance was applicable as alignment passes through forest area from 3rd Mile to 5th Mile in Upper Shillong as forest land diversion was required. The clearance has been granted.

SIA report and RAP survey

Community survey was conducted in order to collect the baseline data of socio-economy of the project area. The purpose of the community survey was to provide present conditions of the population, local economic and social conditions, and cultural conditions affected not only directly but also indirectly both positively or negatively by the project. The community survey included general economic indicators and demographic conditions, socio-economic infrastructures, gender equality and women’s participation, benefits for persons below the poverty line et al; in the districts directly affected by the project. Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) after detailed household survey was undertaken since displacement of over 157 families was envisaged. Information on Project Affected People (PAPs) like inventory of assets, surveys for livelihood, compensation for lost assets and planning of livelihood restoration were highlights of the report.
The success in dedicated compilation of above reports and highlighting all the requisite parameters as per World Bank and JICA guidelines was responsible for sanction of the project.
It was one of the happiest and fulfilling days for me in my professional career after giving the final presentation to JICA on all above reports.
I have been traversing this road, blessed with nature’s bounty since childhood…improving the connectivity shall open the pristine and unparallel beauty of our land to the world including huge boost to the trade and commerce.

(The author is a Shillong-based renowned environmentalist)

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