A bridge to be built by India over the river Feni in Tripura for gaining access to Bangladesh’s Chittagong sea port would not only facilitate transport of goods to the northeast but also boost trade and economic ties with neighbouring countries.
The 150-metre bridge, to be built at a cost of about Rs.100 crore (20 million USD), would connect southern Tripura’s border town Sabroom, 135 km south of capital Agartala, with the Bangladeshi border town Ramgarh, 300 km northeast of Dhaka.
Bangladesh has agreed to allow India to use its Chittagong, Mongla and Ashuganj ports.
“The bridge would not only help immensely to ferry goods and heavy machinery for northeast India but also to connect India with Bangladesh, Myanmar and other southeast Asian nations through the Chittagong international port,” Tripura Commerce and Industries Minister Jitendra Chaudhury told IANS.
India’s northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China. The only land route access to these states from India is through the West Bengal-Assam corridor. But this route passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends.
In contrast, the distance between important cities of Bangladesh and northeastern India is about 20 to 200 km.
Agartala is 1,650 km from Kolkata and 2,637 km from New Delhi via Shillong and Guwahati. But the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km.
Choudhury said the approach road of the Feni bridge would be connected with the Assam-Agartala national highway NH 44 which passes through southern Assam and Meghalaya and is connected with other national highways in the region.
Infrastructure development company IL&FS (Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited) is the nodal organisation for building the bridge.
IL&FS officials Wednesday gave details of the bridge to Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda and top officials of the Customs and Border Security Force.
“For the bridge to be at par with international standards, the centre would provide funds,” said Chaudhury, who was present at the meeting.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has also started work to extend its network up to Sabroom. This is expected to be completed by 2014.