Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, KMTTP, a gateway linking the landlocked Northeast to the sea is all set to become operational. River Kaladan flows through the southern portion of Mizoram (India) before emptying into the Bay of Bengal at Sittwe, the seaport in Myanmar, after meandering along the Indo-Myanmar Border in North East India. The Kaladan River can be navigated from its confluence with the Bay of Bengal near Sittwe upstream to Kaletwa (Setpyitpin). The river is not navigable past Kaletwa, towards the Indian border, due to shallow water and frequent rapids. Therefore, it is suggested that transportation along this stretch of NH 54 in Mizoram, from Kaletwa in Myanmar to Lawngtlai in Mizoram, be by road. As part of the proposed development of a multimodal trade route along the river Kaladan between Mizoram (India) and Chin State in Myanmar, a road link from Kaletwa in Myanmar to Lawngtlai on NH-54 in Mizoram is being considered.
In a bilateral agreement, India and Myanmar agreed to the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project. It involves, among other things, linking Aizawl in Mizoram with Myanmar’s deep-water Sittwe Port. The ‘geo-strategic location’ of Myanmar at the tri-junction of Southeast Asia and India’s northeastern region is of critical significance. The aim is to link the Indian mainland through three modes of transport: sea, river, and road; this will mitigate the pressure on the Siliguri corridor.
Historically, the geographical isolation of the northeast has been the biggest hindrance to the growth and development of the region. The first step towards the push for a muti-modal transit and the initial blueprint of this current project was introduced by B.G. Verghese, geo-strategist to the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. It was two decades ago when the Kaladan project was proposed, prepared by RITES in the year 2003 with the Detailed Project Report (DPR) and the subsequent signing of an agreement between India and Myanmar in 2008. The Kaladan Multimodal Project links the port of Kolkata to the Sittwe Port in Myanmar by sea, the river Kaladan from Sittwe to Paletwa, the road from Paletwa to the border of India and Myanmar, and ultimately the road from Paletwa to Lawngtlai, Mizoram. The dependency on Siliguri Corridor between Nepal and Bangladesh will reduce the cost and time of transportation. This project will encompass outreach to the South East Asian countries. Through this project there is also the potential for the development of northeast India, allowing an increase in terms of export as the idea is not confined to connecting Mizoram with Myanmar, but also to the rest of the Northeast.
The trade route will foster India’s economic ties with Southeast Asian countries, paving the way for cultural and social integration at the regional level. The project will facilitate connectivity, allowing the northeast region which is connected flimsily to the mainland through the 21 km Chicken’s Neck corridor in the upper West Bengal, Bhutan and Nepal on either side, resulting in shortening the route from 1,880 km via the Chicken’s Neck to 930 km, the distance between Kolkata and Sittwe in Myanmar.
A multimodal transportation corridor linking Mizoram and Myanmar would facilitate simple trade and transit transport movement in this area. The KMMTTP moves through Rakhine and Chin States in Myanmar, as well as Mizoram in India, using both waterways and roads as its means of transportation. According to the schedule, the KMMTTP would cut the 1,880 km (via the Chicken’s Neck) distance between Kolkata and Sittwe, Myanmar, to 930 km. Cargo movement via three different modes, including coastal shipping, inland waterways, and road transport, is referred to as multimodal transportation. The Rs 3,200 crore Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP) includes the deep-water port in Sittwe. The project, which is being led by the Ministry of External Affairs and was initially approved in 2008, aims to increase trade and business between India and Myanmar while facilitating access to other South Asian nations. Once complete, it will also offer a vital alternative route for connecting India’s landlocked northeastern states to the rest of the country, relieving pressure on the already constrained Siliguri corridor. The project will also reduce the influence of the Chinese in Myanmar by facilitating market accessibility for India in the northeastern region of the country, resulting in a diversity of trade.
The project has faced several challenges, including delays in land acquisition, difficulties in obtaining environmental clearances and security concerns due to ongoing conflict in Myanmar. The project has also faced criticism from environmentalists who have raised concerns about the impact of the project on the Kaladan River and the surrounding ecosystems.
Despite these challenges KMTTP has a huge potential to transform the landscape of the region in terms of infrastructure. It would also facilitate the growth of trade and investment between India and Myanmar thereby contributing to the overall development of the region.