By Rajkumar Bobichand
Last week, the history of development of Asian Highways and the routes of Asian Highway 1 were discussed. Due to Manipur’s geo-political situation, two important highways of Asian Highways Network, i.e. AH1 and AH2 are passing through Manipur. What should we do?
AH1, which passes through Imphal and we can see its road sign (AH1) along the roadsides of Moreh-Imphal-Dimapur NH2, is the longest route of the Asian Highway Network, running 20,557 km (12,845 miles) from Tokyo, Japan via Korea, China, Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to the border between Turkey and Bulgaria west of Istanbul where it joins end-on with European Route E80.
The AH2 is also an important road in the Asian Highway Network running 13,177 km (8230 miles) starts from Denpasar in Indonesia to Khosravi in Iran. The most significant of the Asian Highways in relation with Manipur is that the Asian Highways, AH1 and AH2 also pass through Manipur.
However, we are not well aware of these developments. If we are not aware, who will answer the pertinent questions raised in this column last week? Few people are aware of the Asian Highways, AH1 and AH2 passing through Manipur.
In Indonesia, the routes of AH2 are Denpasar — Surabaya — Surakarta — Semarang — Cikampek (— Bandung) — Jakarta (— Merak). Toll Road System of Indonesia parts of AH2: Trans-Java Toll Road, consist of: Jakarta-Tangerang Toll Road; Tangerang-Merak Toll Road; Jakarta-Cikampek Toll Road; Cikampek-Palimanan Toll Road; Palimanan-Kanci Toll Road; Kanci-Pejagan Toll Road; Semarang City Toll Road; Semarang-Solo Toll Road; Cipularang Toll Road; Padaleunyi Toll Road; Cileunyi-Dawuan Toll Road; Nusa Dua-Ngurah Rai-Benoa Toll Road (Bali Toll Road). The Bridges parts of AH2 are Suramadu Bridge (connecting Java island and Madura island); Bali Strait Bridge (connecting Java island and Bali island); Sunda Strait Bridge (connecting Java island and Sumatra island)and Malacca Strait Bridge (connecting Sumatra island, Indonesia and Malaysia).
In Singapore, AH2 passes Bukit Timah Expressway and Johor Causeway.
In Malaysia, the AH2 extends over Johor Bahru — Senai Utara — Seremban — Kuala Lumpur — Butterworth — Bukit Kayu Hitam. It is reported that the status of the section of AH2 crossing the Malaysia-Singapore border is currently being disputed. Malaysia had commissioned the Second Link Expressway as part of AH2 while Singapore had commissioned the Johor-Singapore Causeway as part of AH2. The other Expressways are North-South Expressway; New Klang Valley Expressway; North-South Expressway Central Link; Second Link Expressway; Skudai Highway; Malaysia Federal Route 1; Johor Causeway.
In Thailand, Sa Dao — Hat Yai — Bangkok — Bang Pa-in — Nakhon Sawan — Tak — Chiang Rai — Mae Sai are major points where AH2 passes. AH2 in Thailand is connected by National Route 4 from Sa Dao to Phatthalung, then Route 41 to Chumphon, then Route 4 to Bangkok, then Route 338/Route 9 to Bang Pa-in, overlap with AH1 to Tak, then Route 1 to Mae Sai.
In Myanmar, AH2 stretches over Tachilek — Kengtung — Meiktila — Mandalay — Tamu. AH 2 uses Route 4 to Meiktila, then overlaps AH1 to Tamu.
In India, AH2 routes through Moreh — Imphal — Kohima — Dimapur — Nagaon — Jorabat — Shillong — Dawki.
In Bangladesh, AH2 runs though Dawki-Tamabil — Sylhet — Katchpur — Dhaka — Hatikamrul — Banglabandha. From here, it connects with Siliguri in India and enters Nepal.
In Nepal, AH2 covers a length of 1027 km within Nepal. The portion of AH2 in Nepal is known as Mahendra Raj Marga. The section of the road from Kakarvitta to Mahendra Nagar is 6-7m wide and the condition is generally good. AH2 connects the eastern portion of Nepal at Kakarvitta and passes through Itahari, Dhalkebar, Pathlaiya, Hetauda, Nayanghat, Butwal, Kohalpur, Attaria and Mahendranagar. There is a missing link between Mahendranagar (Nepal) and Brahmadevmandi (India).
The Government of India has now taken initiatives to support Nepal to complete the missing link between Mahendranagar to Brahmadevmandi. The detailed design works for this section of the road is complete and the land compensation has also been distributed. The other side of Brahmadevmandi and across the border is Tanakpur in India. The route through Tanakpur and Banbasa need to be defined as Asian Highway Network so that AH2 connection is complete. Traffic volume is also going increasing in Asian highways in Nepal as the total number of vehicles is rapidly increasing in the country.
AH2 in Nepal stretches over Kankarbhitta — Pathlaiya — Hetauda — Narayangarh — Kohalpur — Mahendranagar — Mahakali River. From here, AH2 enters into India again and runs over Banbasa — Rampur — New Delhi — Attari. From here, AH2 passes through Pakistan and over the routes i.e. Wagah — Lahore; Lahore — Okara — Multan — Bahwalpur — Rahim Yar Khan — Rohri; Rohri — Sukkar — Jacobabad — Sibi — Quetta; and Quetta — Dalbandin — Taftan
To complete the routes, AH2 runs in Iran over the stretches like, Mirjaveh — Zahedan — Kerman – Anar ; Anar — Kashan — Qom; Qom — Salafchegan; Salafchegan— Saveh; and Saveh — Hamadan — Kermanshah — Khosravi.
Once again, I would like to raise the same pertinent questions before the Government of Manipur, its peoples, Civil Society Organisations, the academic and intellectuals are – Are we prepared for the social and economic impacts the Trans Asian Highways may give? Are we prepared to tap the advantages from the two Trans Asian Highways? Are we destined to be just swept away by the Trans Asian Highways? Are we limited to be just bystanders alongside the Trans Asian Highways?
It is time for the real policy makers of Manipur, social scientists (including economists and anthropologists), ministers, politicians, civil society organisations, the academics and intellectuals to come together and lay out the future of Manipur. What should we do? Should we remain a silent spectator of the world theatre being played out in our courtyard?