India begins work on bridge linking Bangladeshi ports

Agartala, July 5 (IANS) India has started preliminary work, including making Detailed Project Report, to build a bridge over Feni river in Tripura to access Bangladeshi ports to carry goods and heavy machineries for the northeast region, an official said on Sunday.

“We have started preliminary work and making DPR (Detailed Project Report) to build the all-important bridge over Feni river,” Sunil Bhowmik, chief engineer, Tripura Public Works Department, told reporters.

“After preparing the DPR within two months, it would be submitted to Tripura’s industries and commerce department, which is a nodal department for the project,” he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina jointly laid the foundation stone of the Feni river bridge on June 6 during Modi’s two-day Dhaka visit recently.

The 150-metre (490 feet) road bridge over the Feni river will connect the Sabroom border town (135 km south of Agartala) of southern Tripura with Ramgarh town in Bangladesh.

After completion, the bridge, located north of the Chittagong international sea port, would provide a significant road link to India’s northeastern states and facilitate greater trade and exchanges between the two countries.

Bhowmik said India and Bangladesh officials had earlier finalised the alignment of the bridge which, according to the official, would have a construction cost of over Rs. 100 crore.

“All sorts of problems, including land acquisition, have been resolved on either side of the border,” the chief engineer said.

The Tripura government has been asking the central government to take all possible steps to ensure access to Bangladeshi ports to ferry men and material to and fro mountainous northeastern states and other parts of India via Bangladesh.

The Left Front government had asked Modi to persuade Bangladesh to provide access to its water and land routes to transport men and goods for India’s northeastern states when the prime minister visited Tripura on December 1 last year.

“Access to the Chittagong port and Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh are crucial for the northeastern states to ferry men and materials,” Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has been saying at all forums.

Chittagong international port and Ashuganj river ports are around 70 km and 40 km from Tripura respectively.

During Modi’s Dhaka visit, India and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding promising that Bangladesh would allow use of Chittagong sea port and Mongla river port for the movement of goods to and from India and Mongla ports might be used by waterways, rail, road or multi-modal transport.

The Food Corporation of India had recently ferried 35,000 tonnes of rice in different phases to Tripura from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh and Kolkata port via Bangladesh using the Ashuganj river ports and Bangladesh highways.

In 2012, Bangladesh had allowed the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and over-dimensional cargoes through Ashuganj port for the 726-MW Palatana mega power project in southern Tripura.

Transportation via Bangladesh is much easier, as road connectivity is a major issue for the mountainous north-eastern states which share boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and China.

Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata by road and 2,637 km from New Delhi, while the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 500 to 600 km, depending upon the mode of trasportation.

India’s Northeast Frontier Railway has started work to extend its network up to Tripura’s southernmost border town Sabroom and the Bangladeshi border town and railway station in Akhaura, just six km west of the Agartala railway station.

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