The multi-million dollar project, initiated by India under the Look East Policy, envisages development of roads and inland waterways from Sittwe port in Myanmar to Mizoram. The work on the port began in December 2010 and is expected to be completed by the middle of this year. The Detailed Engineering Report (DER) of the road project is expected to be finalized this year. Once the project is completed, Mizoram will have access to Sittwe port in Myanmar's Arakan state through the Bay of Bengal. A part of the project will also extend into Chin state in Myanmar.
The Kaladan Movement, an alliance of Arakan Rivers Network (ARN), the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) in Myanmar and the Zo Indigenous Forum (ZIF) in Mizoram, besides several other civil society groups in the northeast and Myanmar, demanded that the project benefits all backward communities residing along the project path on both sides of the international border. It maintained that Arakan and Chin are "least developed" areas in Myanmar and people in these areas should be the principal beneficiaries.
"The movement believes that the project should be implemented in a transparent manner with the participation of locals and in consultation with them," it said.
On Tuesday, they will release a report in Bangkok called "One cannot step into the same river twice: making the Kaladan Project people-centered". The report will highlight the positive and negative impact of the project on the lives of the people. It will also ask Myanmar and India to address the concerns of the communities.
Recently, Union minister of commerce, industry and textiles, Anand Sharma, went to Myanmar. India has offered US$-150 million credit for establishing a SEZ at Sittwe. During his meeting with Myanmar President U Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday, Sharma said the two countries have decided to strengthen economic ties with each other.
Alana Golmei of Burma Centre Delhi, a think-tank organization for the promotion of democracy in Myanmar, said while India's economic engagement in Myanmar is a welcome step, the benefits of the cooperation should percolate down to the northeast, which shares a border with that country.