Agartala, May 5 (IANS): India and Bangladesh will start work next week to build a bridge over river Feni in Tripura for access to Bangladesh's Chittagong sea port to ferry goods and heavy machinery for northeast India, a minister said here today.
"Engineers of India and Bangladesh will carry out field level technical surveys from May 10 before starting the actual work," Tripura Commerce and Industries Minister Jitendra Chaudhury told reporters. He said: "If the Central government rejects the Tripura government's proposal to give the required Rs 40 crore to construct the bridge, the State government would bear the cost...For the bridge to be at par with international standards, the centre has the scope to provide funds".
The proposed bridge would connect southern Tripura's border town Sabroom, 135 km south of Agartala, with the Bangladeshi border town Ramgarh, 300 km northeast of Dhaka.
Bangladesh has agreed to allow India to use the Chittagong, Mongla and Ashuganj ports. The Chittagong port is the principal seaport of Bangladesh handling about 92 percent of the country's imports and exports.
The minister said the 200-metre bridge would be the trading lifeline not only for northeast India but also South Asian countries.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has started work to extend its railway network up to the border town of Sabroom. This is expected to be completed by 2014.
On an average, the distance between important cities of Bangladesh and northeast India is 20-200 km.
India's northeastern States are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China. The only land route access to these states from within India is through Assam. But this route passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends.
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.