Sittwe Port is located at the estuary of Kaladan river in the Rakhine province of Myanmar. This Port has great potential for improving connectivity with Mizoram in the North East and thus can emerge as a significant overseas port with strategic importance for India.
This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1,328 km and will reduce the need to transport goods through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck. Mizoram often faces shortage of supplies due to highway blockages for days altogether, which also results in rationing of petrol and diesel at the fuel stations. On completion, this will be an alternate route to keep Mizoram and landlocked North Eastern states connected with other states in India. The seven North Eastern states are currently dependent on ports in Bangladesh.
Simultaneously, it will boost economic development in Rakhine state and thus make it more lucrative for the local population there.
The project has several sections combining multi-modes of transport.
An inland water transport jetty has already been constructed by India at Sittwe. There is a possibility that a container terminal might also come up at Sittwe. A detailed project report is already in place in this regard.
Efforts are underway for an expeditious completion of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project which pivots on Sittwe port in Myanmar and will upon completion connect India’s northeast to SouthEast Asia. According to the Mizoram Public Works Department (PWD), 96.21 per cent work of the ambitious Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project has been completed.
The Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project was jointly identified by India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal mode of transport for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar as well as to the North-Eastern part of India through Myanmar.
The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is a US$484 million project connecting the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Rakhine State, Myanmar by sea.
The Kaladan project includes a waterways component of 158 km on the Kaladan river from Sittwe Port to Paletwa in Myanmar and a road component of 109 km from Paletwa to Zorinpui on the India-Myanmar border in Mizoram state.
Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India Sarbanand Sonwal has informed in a tweet that the dredging activity has commenced at Sittwe Jetty of Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar by IWAI ShipMin.
The waterways component comprising Port and Inland Water Transport (IWT) terminal at Sittwe; IWT terminal and related facilities at Paletwa; navigational channel along Kaladan river from Sittwe to Paletwa; and six self-propelled IWT vessels have already been completed. Six barges of 300 ton capacity each have been handed over to Myanmar by the government of India.
A port operator jointly appointed by the governments of India and Myanmar has also started maintenance work from February 2020.
During his visit to Myanmar last December, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had expressed India’s continued support for people-centric socio-economic developmental projects, including those along the India-Myanmar border areas, as well as India’s commitment for expeditious implementation of ongoing connectivity initiatives such as the Kaladan project and the Trilateral Highway.
India shares an approximately 1700-km long border with Myanmar and any developments in the country have a direct impact on India’s bordering regions. Sittwe Port is around 500 km by road from the Kyaukphyu Port and even closer by sea route.
The Kaladan river originates from Mizoram and flows from North to South. A part of the river has been made navigable to a draught of about 1.5 to 2 meters. It is planned to transport cargo through barges up the river till Palletwa. The final leg to Mizoram border will be by road. This will avoid transporting goods to Mizoram through the ‘chicken’s neck’.
On the Myanmar side, a 109-km road will connect Palletwa with Zorinpui, Mizoram at the India – Myanmar border. Thereafter, a new road of 90-km will be laid to connect the existing Aizawl-Saiha National Highway up to Zorinpui.
The external affairs ministry, in its reply to the parliamentary committee on external affairs, has said the status of the road segment of the Kaladan project (109-km road from Zorinpui in Mizoram to Paletwa in Myanmar) is being closely monitored along with the department of heavy industries, the parent department of Engineering Project (India) Limited that is part of the joint venture implementing the project. India’s budget for 2021-22 included an outlay of ₹400 crore as grants and loans for Myanmar.