PM Narendra Modi is today scheduled to inaugurate India’s longest span, the 9.15 km Dhola-Sadiya bridge across river Lohit at the easternmost tip of Assam, on May 26. Earlier, Governments of India and Japan launched a vision document for the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor. Dhola-Sadiya bridge is 3.55 km longer than the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai. The opening of the bridge is among the highlights of Modi’s program during his visit to Assam to attend the first anniversary of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government. A lot is one of three rivers the others are Dibang and Siang that appear to form the Brahmaputra downstream of the site of the bridge that joins Dhola village and Sadiya town, 540 km east of Assam’s principal city Guwahati.
Sadiya is the country of balladeer Bhupen Hazarika. The bridge, intended to facilitate the movement of battle tanks, is required to help the flow of troops to the border with China in the Walloon-Kibithu sector in southern Arunachal Pradesh. The industry had fallen along with Tawang in the northwest to the Chinese in the 1962 war.
The design, worth ₹950 crore, was started in 2011. It will reduce the travel time for people on either bank of river Lohit by at least eight hours. But Dhola-Sadiya is not the only bridge in the Northeast that will go into the record books. Also supposed to be inaugurated by 2018 is Bogibeel, the fourth and easternmost bridge across the Brahmaputra. This bridge-whist near Dibrugarh town, 4.94 km in length, will be India’s largest road-rail bridge.
Like Dhola-Sadiya, Bogibeel will also be of enormous strategic importance as it will enable rapid troop movements across the Brahmaputra besides providing a direct link between people on opposing banks who have to take a 500km detour via the existing Kalia Bhomora Bridge downstream.
Bogibeel relates Dibrugarh town on the southern bank of Brahmaputra and Silapathar on the northern bank. The building of the bridge, approved in 1996, was launched by the first BJP-led NDA government in 2002. The Congress-led UPA government recognized the strategic importance of the bridge and declared it as a national project in 2007.
But the progress of the plan, undertaken by the firm that builds Bandra-Worli Sea Link, has been slow. The cost has thus spiraled from the initial Rs 1,767 crore in 2002 to Rs 6,000 crore now. Arguably Indian Railway’s complex project, this line will boast of two Indian records once completed by 2020. These are the largest railway tunnel and the tallest railroad bridge.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) began construction of this line formerly part of the ambitious Trans-Asian Railway in 2008 after it was declared as a national project. Railway officials told work was progressing at speed despite challenges of weather, terrain, and militants.
The design is in two sections the 84km Jiribam-Lupul and the 27km Lupul-Imphal spanning 111km. The route will pass through 45 tunnels, 25 of which were made by April 2016. The total length of the tunnels is 60.2 km, more than half the total track length, and the longest one (Tunnel 12) would be 11.55 km long to displace the current record-holder Banihal in in Kashmir from the top spot by 100 meters.
“The two divisions have 22 major and 142 minor bridges. These include what will be the world’s tallest rail bridge with a pier height of 141 meters almost equal to two Qutab Minar stacked over each other,” NFR spokesperson Pranav Jyoti Sharma told HT.
Because of terrain and small population, the entire stretch of this project will have nine stations, Tupul on the outskirts of Manipur capital Imphal being the easternmost.
The expected cost of the design is Rs 9,657 crore, which compares favorably with the similarly challenging 210 km Lumding-Silchar hill section in Assam that was approved in 1996-97 at an initial cost of Rs 648 crore but ended up running Rs 6,000 crore upon completion in 2015.
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The railway line is required to give Manipur’s landlocked Imphal Valley often troubled by highway blockades in the surrounding Naga hills a cheaper route to the India beyond. Also, the transportation of goods by train is expected to bring down prices from India, though Manipur sustains mainly through carries from Myanmar. The railway line from Manipur is projected to be extended to Moreh on the border with Myanmar where border trade averages Rs 350 million annually.