India builds infra near LAC to counter China’s model villages
Arunachal Pradesh government is actively considering promoting tours to the World War II planes’ crash sites in the state along China border, the people said.
India is developing border villages in Arunachal Pradesh as tourist hubs through a civil-military partnership as an answer to China’s so-called model villages or xiaokang close to the line of actual control (LAC), people familiar with the development said.
The idea is to not only boost the local economy and stop migration from border villages to the cities but also assert India’s dominance near the border at a time when there is volatility at the LAC.
The emphasis is on developing homestays, treks, camping sites, adventure sports activities and spiritual tours, the people added, asking not to be named.
The Arunachal Pradesh government is actively considering promoting tours to the World War II planes’ crash sites in the state, which has a 1,129 km (about 701.53 miles) long international border with China, the people said.
Work on developing homestays, camping sites, zip-lines and trekking routes is already on in Kaho -- the first village on Indo-China border in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, as well as Kibithoo and Meshai . Other areas of Anjaw district in the eastern part of the state , home of the Mishmi and Meyor tribes, are also being developed.
To make access to the remote state easier, the state administration has also decided to build a commercial landing ground for helicopters at Walong, the nearest Advance Landing Ground of Indian Air Force (IAF); this will help people fly in from Dibrugarh.
“We have trained several young people in rafting, paragliding, car and bike rallies, angling and other adventure activities. There is so much to experience for people --breathtaking mountains and stunning valleys. Infrastructure is being developed big-time in remote border villages. Road connectivity work is going . New trekking routes have been opened. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) itself is monitoring the work in these villages,” Pema Khandu, chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh told HT in Kibithoo during the launch of Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) by union home minister Amit Shah earlier this week.
“There are already signs of reverse migration in the border villages,” he added.
Shah himself lauded the natural beauty of the area during his first visit to the region on April 10-11 and urged people from rest of India to visit there.
“Captured the beautiful landscapes during my visit to Kibithoo, India’s first village. Arunachal Pradesh is blessed with immense natural beauty. I urge all to visit Arunachal Pradesh, especially Kibithoo, to be inspired by its history and stunned by nature’s marvels,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
He said in another tweet the VVP will further boost connectivity and development in border villages.
China has built over 600 xiaokang villages across LAC in areas stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh in last 9-10 years. Many of these villages are in proximity to strategically important positions on the Indian side, raising concerns in India’s security establishment which believes Beijing could use these villages as staging camps in case of a conflict. People deployed at the border said most of these xiaokang are empty.
“Most of these model villages built by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are occupied by either the labourers used by PLA for various construction activities near the LAC or by its troops,” said an army officer, who requested anonymity.
He added that India’s civil-military coordination over the last few years to develop the area has been “historic”. “It was really necessary to assert our dominance at the LAC.”
Arunchal’s residents say they are happy with the emphasis on developing tourist infrastructure. “A homestay has already been built in our village. People are welcome to stay in our homes also. We are happy to assist the army, Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP) and administration to keep China’s designs at bay,” Kunchok Tsering Meyor, a resident of Kaho, India’s first village told HT.
Arunachal Pradesh east member of parliament Tapir Gao said : “Earlier, the governments believed in keeping the border area as a ‘no man’s land’ and didn’t make roads, bridges or created jobs forcing the border tribes to migrate but China kept developing its villages till the edge of LAC.”
Then there are the crash sites.
During World War II, the United States lost nearly 650 aircrafts and around 400 airmen in “The Hump”- - a route in Arunachal Pradesh, Tibet and Myanmar, which was used by the allied forces to provide supplies to the Chinese army by flying over the Himalayas.
Apart from tourism, the Arunachal Pradesh government is also building 50 mini hydropower projects along the border with China for electrification of remote villages and military establishments.
The micro, mini and small hydropower projects of 10–100-kilowatt capacity are being built at an estimated cost of ₹200 crore under the “Golden Jubilee Border Village Illumination Programme”.
Nine of these projects were inaugurated by Shah on April 10 in Kibithoo.
“Ample presence of water resources such as rivers and natural springs along with heavy rainfall in the mountainous border regions of the state serve as a great advantage in extraction of energy from micro-hydel projects,” Khandu said.
Deputy chief minister Chowna Mein said 17 such projects located in 11 districts will cover 123 border villages benefiting 10,185 people.
“In addition, 15 establishments of the Indian Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police and Border Roads Organisation, covering about 1,800 personnel, will be electrified under these 17 projects,” he added.
One of these projects, Dichu Nallah (100 KW), is located just along the LAC near Kibithoo.
“However, despite several hurdles, we could successfully complete the project within a very short span of time. We have also changed the colour of the project from bottle green to red as it is a civilian asset,” said executive engineer of the project Dharmendra Gogoi.
Most of the army establishments in the area are painted green ; and red denotes a civilian asset.