Agartala, Dec 22 (IANS) Indian and Bangladeshi officials will start work later this month on a bridge over the Feni river in Tripura to get access to Bangladesh's Chittagong sea port for carrying goods and heavy machinery from India to its landlocked northeast, says a minister.
Tripura Commerce and Industries Minister Jitendra Chaudhury held separate meetings in Dhaka Tuesday with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Commerce Minister Col (retd) Faruk Khan and discussed strategies to boost trade, economy and and people-to-people contact with the northeastern region.
'A joint team of senior officials of India and Bangladesh would visit Sabroom (in India) and Ramgarh (in Bangladesh) later this month to initiate work for construction of the bridge over Feni river,' Chaudhury told IANS by phone from Dhaka.
'The proposed bridge, to be built at a cost of a little over Rs.13 crore, would be the trading lifeline not only for the whole of northeast India but also South Asian countries,' said the Tripura minister.
'Both the Bangladesh ministers are very keen to intensify trade and business with northeast India and also set up joint venture projects in the region for the benefit of the two neighbours.'
The Bangladesh government has agreed to allow India to use the Chittagong port, about 75 km from Tripura's southern border town of Sabroom.
'We have prepared the detailed project report (DPR) for the 150-metre-long bridge and other necessary facilities,' Chaudhury said.
'To construct the bridge at par with international standards, the centre would provide funds from the Assistance to States for Developing Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities (ASIDE) scheme.'
Various other tourism-related amenities and infrastructure would also be constructed in and around the area, 135 km south of Tripura capital Agartala.
Chaudhury said Tuesday's meetings in Dhaka also discussed work on the Agartala (India) and Akhaurah (Bangladesh) rails links.
Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has started preliminary work to extend its railway network up to the Bangladeshi border town and railway station Akhaurah, just six kilometres from the Agartala railway station.
The northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China and 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.
Chaudhury said: 'If Dhaka provides transit facilities to India and if we can use the Chittagong international port and other ports in Bangladesh, commodities and machinery can be transported to the northeast from various parts of India and abroad, saving huge time and money.'
'The transit between northeast India and rest of the country and abroad via Bangladesh is likely to become a reality in near future,' Chaudhury pointed out.
On an average, the distance between important cities of Bangladesh and northeast India is 30 km to 200 km.