Frontier Highway to bring sea change in Arunachal Pradesh

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GUWAHATI,May 6: On a road leading to the Indo-China frontier in Arunachal Pradesh, commuters are greeted with memorials erected at several places. They belong to those killed in accidents happened on the road in a little over two decades. Many of the thrilling memorials overlooking the deep valleys are of men of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a non-combatant force under the Ministry of Defence.

“The BRO personnel make unparallel sacrifices in building roads in some of the toughest terrains in higher Himalayas where common people cannot even stand,” said AK Mishra, Chief Engineer of BRO’s Project Brahmank that looks after frontier road construction along with National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) in two major valleys – Siang and Shiyomi – in Arunachal Pradesh. Project Brahmank was taken up by the BRO in 2011 for building roads and bridges to establish communication network in the strategically important frontier state.
Recalling his own experiences as a young engineer in General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF), the engineering cadre and a key part of BRO, Mishra said, “It was a routine for us to trek up to 25-30 km every day in areas where there is no trace of any road. There were days when we had to sleep under roofs made of bitumen tins during heavy rains.”
While the sacrifices made by the army in the battles with enemies are often glorified, and rightly so, the remarkable stories of BRO men in facilitating the army’s access to the frontier are not much heard of.
The memorials along the road to Menchukha near the Indo-Tibet border – most defence personnel prefer to call it ‘Tibet’, and not China – are a testimony to the sacrifices made by BRO personnel in providing strategic access to the army along the border.
“For BRO there is no cooling period as we always have to make roads where there is no road at all. Once a road is built, it gets handed over to state PWD for further maintenance and upgrade and BRO has to move on,” said the BRO official, who was accorded Vishisht Seva Medal for his dedicated service to the nation.
Currently, the BRO’s top priority in Arunachal Pradesh is to complete the 1748-km-long Frontier Highway with an estimated cost of ₹27,000 crore. The proposed road with almost half of the stretch (800 km) being greenfield is scheduled for completion in 2027.
Construction in some of the toughest terrains on a 200-km stretch of the strategic road is being undertaken by BRO’s Project Brahmank.
Besides the Frontier Highway, there will also be radials (smaller roads) connecting the last villages along the border with the two-lane highway, Mishra informed.
Expressing satisfaction over the pace of work considering the hostile terrain and weather, Bring Mishra asserted that the Frontier Highway will bring sea change in terms all modes of communication in Arunachal Pradesh in next two-three years.

To a query on the environmental damage caused by the massive construction activities in the upper Himalayas, the Project Brahmank Chief Engineer said, “We have made utmost efforts to minimise environmental damage by using pre-cast materials such as utility ducts and culverts during road construction.”
Use of pre-cast materials can clear the road in hours after digging whereas earlier it took days and sometimes landslides led to repetitive digging. High-tech machines such as robotic drillers that can penetrate holes several metres into the rock and mobile stone crushers have accelerated the speed of work as well.
To minimise erosion, muck pits are built wherever possible and walls built around the pits to stabilise the muck.
Several methods have been used for slope stabilisation such as building guard walls, iron netting cover on loose rocks and hydraseeding (spraying plant seeds along with water and manure) on the slopes.
Under its compensatory afforestation mandate for the road projects, the BRO deposits adequate funds to the state government for which the latter had to identity land for afforestation.
“For paucity of land in the hilly state, neighbouring Assam too get such funds for compensatory afforestation,” the senior BRO official said.
Meanwhile, the BRO has taken up a series of civic action programmes to benefit the local population, including health camps, awareness programmes. etc.
Under Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) launched last year, basic amenities such as water supply, sanitation facilities, school among others are being provided at select frontier villages.
Comprehensive development of select villages are being carried out in 46 blocks in 19 districts of frontier states – Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand – and UT of Ladakh under the Centrally-sponsored programme.

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