First ever Indo-Bangladesh river bridge to connect Northeast India with a sea
A bridge, first along India-Bangladesh border awaiting a virtual inauguration by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, over Feni river in southern Tripura would link the landlocked northeastern states of India with the rest of the world through the Chittagong international sea port in southeast Bangladesh.
There is a steel bridge along India-Myanmar border in the frontier town of Moreh (under Tengnoupal district), 110 km from Manipur capital Imphal and border trade has been going on through this route for the past many years.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually open the 1.888 km bridge, which is 72 km by road from the Chittagong international sea port. The bridge, for which the construction works started in October 2017, has been built by India at a cost of around Rs 129 crore.
The double-lane Feni bridge, which would connect the border town of Sabroom in Tripura with Ramgarh town in Bangladesh, would facilitate ease transportation of goods and heavy machineries to and from the northeastern states from various parts of the country and abroad using the Chittagong sea port, Kolkata port and other ports in India and Bangladesh.
The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) has constructed the vital bridge and the 1,476m stretch of approach roads, of which 1,193 m falls in the Indian territory and the remaining 283 m falls in the Bangladesh side.
The Executive Director of NHIDCL, A.K. Kushwaha, said the bridge named 'Maitre Setu' (friendship bridge) is a cable stayed reinforced cement concrete (RCC) bridge, including viaduct and pillar support to bear heavy load and weighty machinery.
Experts, economists and traders said that the bridge would open a new horizon of connectivity, economy, trade and commerce, besides strengthening people-to-people bonding between the northeastern states and Bangladesh and other neighboring countries.
CUTS International, a Jaipur-based think-tank, has conducted several studies on border trade and 'Border Haats' (markets) in a bid to boost the economy and fortify the ties among the people of India and Bangladesh and also to check illegal trades and activities.
The Executive Director of CUTS International, Bipul Chatterjee, told IBNS: "While it will reduce the travel time between the Chittagong sea port in Bangladesh and Sabroom in southern Tripura, it would provide an access to mountainous northeast of India."
The President of Tripura Chambers of Commerce and Industries, M.L. Debnath, said that the bridge will open a new avenue for trade, economy and connectivity between India, Bangladesh and adjoining countries.
Only 250 km out of the northeast's 5,687 km outer perimeter touches India. The remaining 5,437 km represents international boundaries with China (1,300 km), Myanmar (1,643 km), Bangladesh (1,880 km), Bhutan (516 km) and Nepal (98 km). Agartala is the nearest (135 km) important city from Dhaka.
There is only a narrow land corridor to the northeastern region through Assam and West Bengal, but this route passes through hilly terrain with steep gradients and multiple hairpin bends, making plying of vehicles, especially loaded trucks, difficult and time consuming.
Besides the Feni bridge, the Indian government has already started constructing the sixth multi-facilitated Integrated Check Post (ICP) along the India-Bangladesh borders and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the border town of Sabroom, 130 km south of Agartala.
The Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI) under the Union Home Ministry, and the Department of Expenditure under the Union Finance Ministry, had sanctioned Rs 90.60 crore to acquire land for setting up the new ICP in Sabroom.
The Indian government in association with Tripura government has already started work to set up the SEZ with an investment of Rs 650 crore.
An official of the Industry and Commerce Department in Tripura has said that initially, Rs 60 crore would be spent to develop the infrastructure in the SEZ.