Assam is all set to get India’s longest rail-road bridge on December 25, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays open the 4.94-km-long strategically important project over the mighty Brahmaputra at Bogibeel. The Bogibeel Bridge, which was a part of the Assam Accord and sanctioned in 1997-98, is likely to play a crucial role in defence movement along the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.
The foundation stone of the project was laid by former prime minister H D Deve Gouda on January 22, 1997, while work commenced on April 21, 2002, under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government. December 25 happens to be Vajpayee’s birth anniversary. Because of the inordinate delay in implementation, the cost of the project escalated by 85 per cent to Rs 5,960 crore from the sanctioned estimated cost of Rs 3,230.02 crore. The total length of the bridge was also revised to 4.94 km from the earlier 4.31 km.
Realising its strategic importance, the central government had declared the construction of the bridge as a National Project in 2007, thereby assuring the availability of fund for speedy construction. Although it will ease out inconvenience caused to people living on the northern side of Brahmaputra to a great extent, officials said the defence requirement played an important role while sanctioning the structure and its design.
The bridge will enhance the national security of the eastern region by facilitating the swift movement of defence forces and their equipment. It was constructed in such a way that even a fighter jet can land on it in case of emergency,” a defence source said. Moreover, because of the technology used, the Air Force will have three landing strips, he said.
“The biggest advantage of the bridge will be easy movement of troops from southern to northern bank. This means travelling to the farthest most point of India’s border with China will be shortened by several hundred kilometres. “First, the Dhola-Sadiya bridge and now Bogibeel — these two are going to enhance India’s defence prowess,” a senior Army official said.
Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said almost 75 per cent of the 4,000-km long border that India shares with China is in Arunachal Pradesh, and the bridge will help in logistical support for the Indian Army manning the border.
The Bogibeel Bridge over river Brahmaputra is situated 17 km downstream of Dibrugarh city in Assam, and it has been constructed for double-line broad gauge track along with three-lane roads, he said.
“This bridge will be the lifeline of the northeastern part of the country and will facilitate connectivity between north and south banks of river Brahmaputra in the eastern region of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
“The remote districts of Anjaw, Changlang, Lohit, Lower Dibang Valley, Dibang Valley and Tirap of Arunachal Pradesh will be greatly benefited,” Sharma said.
The road distance from Dibrugarh to Itanagar will be reduced by 150 km and the railway travel distance between these two points will shorten by 705 km, while this bridge will provide an alternate and shorter route from Dibrugarh through the north bank of Brahmaputra to Delhi and Kolkata via Rangiya, he added.
“The distance from Dibrugarh to Rangiya will be reduced by 170 km… Upper Assam and Eastern Arunachal Pradesh will see massive socio-economic development,” the CPRO said.
Lakhimpur and Dhemaji in Assam will also benefit from the bridge, as the two districts do not have any reputed educational institute or good medical service. Students and patients have to cross the river on the boat to come to Dibrugarh, which houses the famed Dibrugarh University and Assam Medical College, besides a dozen other such centres.
Sharma informed that 30 lakh bags of cement, 19,250 mt reinforcement steel and 2,800 mt structural steel were used for the construction of the mammoth structure. For the superstructure of the main bridge, 77,000 mt of steel fabrication was required, he said.