|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The State of West Bengal is on the threshold of a new era of industrialization. One of the major infrastructural requirements of industry is proper road connectivity. The general condition of roads in West Bengal is not satisfactory and per capita road length is much below the country average. The vehicle population in the state has been increasing at an average of more than 10 percent; the rate of traffic growth is expected to rise along with increasing industrialization and development activities in the coming years. Therefore widening, strengthening, and upgrading of the road network, which is suffering from capacity and strength constraints, have become urgently necessary.
At the national level, road capacity needs considerable expansion to keep pace with accelerating trade growth, especially the project road North-South link providing the link to Haldia port. Inadequate capacities in the hinterland transport modes often lead to higher costs and delays on account of suboptimal mode choices, circuitous routing and congestion in the hinterland transport links. All of these directly impact trade competitiveness. Though four-laning of a 52 km stretch of NH-41 from Kotaghat-Haldia is in progress, more thrust is to be made for faster and efficient traffic flow of cargo to and from ports. The traffic projected for Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) by the end of 12th Five year Plan (2016/17) is 66.7 million tonnes and in 2019/20 is 74.2 million tonnes against the existing traffic of 33.4 million tonnes (2009/10). The existing capacity of HDC is 46.7 million tonnes (as on 31.3.2010) which has been projected to be increased to 85.0 million tonnes in 2016/17 and 91.00 million tonnes in 2019/20 through development of two riverine jetties, port facilities at Haldia Dock II (Shalukhali), and other four riverine jetties; and mechanization of cargo handling facilities.
The North-South Corridor is significantly important not only for the state and national economy but also for the subregional economy. It provides improved port connectivity, which will remove a critical bottleneck in the movement of freight and passengers not only from the northern parts of West Bengal and the northeastern states of India, but also neighboring landlocked counties, e.g., Bhutan and Nepal, to Haldia port. The Project provides alternative route to SAARC Highway Corridors 2 and 3. The proposed north-south corridor comprising State Highways 4 and 7 passes through the trunk backbone of West Bengal along districts with high poverty but with abundance of agricultural products. The development of this route will also maximize the effect from infrastructural development on economic growth and poverty reduction in this area.
The Project will develop the economy of project areas as well as provide neighboring countries with an alternative link to Haldia port for regional and global markets. Connectivity through improved transport has important implications for poverty reduction by offering new economic opportunities through better market linkages and increased employment possibilities.
The Project is relevant to achieving results of the Country Strategy and Program (2009-2012), supporting regional cooperation and more port and intermodal connectivity; as well as the draft Regional Cooperation Strategy and Programs (2011-2015), improving South Asia subregional connectivity and facilitating intraregional trade in South Asia. The Project is included in the draft Country Operation Business Plan (2012-2014).