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‘Road linking Tripura with Bangladesh to be developed’

Agartala, Jan 18 A 51-km four-lane road will be developed to enable carriage of people and material for northeast India via Bangladesh, a visiting Bangladeshi minister said here Sunday.

According to Bangladesh Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, the road, to be built as a jointly-funded project, will link Tripura’s capital city of Agartala with Bangladesh’s Ashuganj river port.

“Bangladesh has undertaken an ambitious Rs.1,608 crore project to develop the highways between Agartala and Ashuganj port,” the minister told reporters, adding that “of the Rs.1,608 crore, Rs.1,578 crore would be provided by the Indian government to expand and improve the highways”.

“The 51-km road would have four lanes to carry heavy cargo and passenger vehicles bound for Agartala and other northeastern states.”

There is only a narrow land corridor connecting the northeastern region to the rest of India 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 — very difficult.

Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata by road and 2,637 km from New Delhi. But the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km.

The minister, accompanied by Indian high commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran and other Bangladeshi officials, visited Agartala to review the road development project.

Quader also held a meeting with the Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey here.

India has spent millions of rupees to develop the Ashuganj port over the Meghna river in eastern Bangladesh.

Carrying heavy machinery, goods and essentials from various parts of India and abroad to mountainous northeastern states via Bangladesh holds significance.

To meet the demands of Tripura, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) recently ferried 10,000 tonnes of rice in two phases from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh via Bangladesh.

Several ships carried the rice from Visakhapatnam port to Kolkata port, then to Ashuganj port in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi trucks then ferried the rice to the FCI warehouses from Ashuganj port to Nandannagar near Agartala.

The Indian government is also holding talks with Bangladesh to transport another 35,000 tonnes of rice for Tripura via Bangladesh.

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

The train services in Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam have been suspended from Oct 1, 2014 for track conversion — from metre gauge to broad gauge — work. This work, undertaken by the Northeast Frontier Railways, is scheduled to be completed by March 2016.