10-plus years, attrition, almost 100 cr and no foothills road

The Doyang Bridge at Liphanyan, Wokha district, a Nagaland Foothills Road as seen on January 28, 2023. (Morung File Photo)

The Doyang Bridge at Liphanyan, Wokha district, a Nagaland Foothills Road as seen on January 28, 2023. (Morung File Photo)

Make foothills road motorable before lobbying for NH status

Morung Express News
Dimapur | March 3 

“If the Nagaland foothills road has to have Central attention, it should first be made motorable.” The comment came from a source familiar with the workings of the road development sector. 

On March 1, the Nagaland Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, told the Assembly that the Nagaland foothills road, which was rechristened as the Trans Nagaland Expressway, lacked the “traffic density” to qualify for consideration as a National Highway. The CM backed up the claim by citing a report purportedly of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. He said that the state government has tried every means possible, over the years, to get Central aid for the long delayed road without much success.

Lacking a supposed traffic density criterion sounds justified but as per the source, traffic density can be assessed only when there is an existing road that sees regular vehicular movement. In the case of the foothills road, it does not offer uninterrupted point to point connectivity, implying the lack of an alleged technical requirement to be accorded National Highway status. “If there is no road, there will be nil traffic density. So we can understand that there has to be first an existing road that sees regular vehicular traffic.”

The source was of the view that once there is a road, traffic density or volume should not be cause for concern for pursuing National Highway status. For comparison, the Akhegwo to Phokhungri road in Meluri, Phek district was upgraded to National Highway despite having relatively low traffic density. 

According to the source’s forecast, vehicular traffic will substantially increase on the foothills road, once it is made motorable, as announced in the Budget session, providing leverage to push for converting into a National Highway.  

The foothills road is estimated to run roughly 300 km in length from Niuland to Mon, excluding the Chümoukedima to Peren segment. The alignment snakes along the state’s foothills bordering Assam, linking up existing roads with fresh formation cutting. It also includes a bridge, spanning the Doyang River, which was completed in November 2022 after overshooting the original construction timeframe by 6 years. 

The state government has, since 2013-14, invested Rs 97 cr to building the road, which came in three tranches— Rs 40 cr in 2013, Rs 27 cr in 2014 and Rs 30 cr in 2021. A major chunk of the amount went into formation cutting, besides the Doyang Bridge. 

During the March 1 Assembly discussion, the CM announced a Rs 148.5 cr package to develop the foothills road into an all-weather single lane.