Chenani- Nashri Tunnel not just an investment in infrastructure

Karanvir Gupta
All eyes glued to the inauguration of Chenani-Nashri tunnel on 2 April primarily because of the two reasons. First being the presence of  Prime Minister and second to decipher any political agenda that shall be unveiled on the go. Unfortunately few wondered about the infrastructure marvel – an artifact – that are rare achievements and result of meticulous work and extreme dedication.
To give a hint around the same, Chenani-Nashri tunnel is the country’s first and the world’s sixth tunnel with a transverse ventilation system. The 9.28km tunnel is also India’s longest tunnel and the first to have a fully integrated tunnel control system. While for us a tunnel might just be another road, but for the team of people who were involved from conceptualization, designing, constructing and bringing it to life – it must have been a challenging task to construct one running through the Himalayas. All we can do now is may be look in awe, just pass by and be thankful to all those who made it happen. But there is more light to the tunnel than we see at the ends of it.
The tunnel seeing the light of day at a time when digitization wave has swept the entire nation can’t be more apt – reinforcing the fact that the nation needs to be connected by all possible means. We stand at the cusp of urbanization with more and more people moving to the cities in search of good education, better employment opportunities, easy access to public goods and entertainment. And there is no stopping this phenomenon. Urbanisation is a precursor to growth, development and prosperity. We might come across some urban countries which are not rich but we shall rarely come across a rich country which is not urban. Thereby making urbanization a necessity for the overall economic growth.
All this development and business of growing rich comes with having great infrastructure. Infrastructure plays the role of enabler. Because it helps people interact and transact more with people outside their cities. It leads to more exchange of ideas and technology. It ensures that there is smooth and seamless flow of goods and people across the cities and states. It takes into account the fact that the wealth creation is a result of cumulative success and not staying in isolation.
The fact that infrastructure plays a pivotal role in building the nations is evident from the fact $1.7trillion has been invested in infrastructure assets globally since 2010 (figures published in a report by PwC and GIIA last year). Considering that investment in infrastructure needs longer time to prove returns on investment (with no short term gains) and are a means of long term value creation is a reflection of genuine interest of the government in the growth and development of the communities, cities and the state. By investing in infrastructure the governments not only build infrastructure but build trust and relationship. Tunnel is not only an investment in infrastructure but investment in the people of the state.
We all acknowledge the fact that creating local jobs, better standard of living, a flourishing tourism industry and strong and vibrant communities are going to germinate with great infrastructure at place. So, if we really want the development to take place, I think this is the time we should invite more investment in infrastructure both from the government and the private companies. We should let the summers have visitors from far and near and be enthralled by the plethora of investment opportunities that lay.
(The writer is an IIM Shillong Alumnus)