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Modi Govt. ‘Bridg-ing’ North East: Connecting Indians and securing India

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Bridge for most in India is a taken for granted necessity. 22 km stretch of Yamuna around Delhi alone has about 11 bridges with 3 more bridges coming up, more than one bridge for every stretch of 2 km. A new bridge being built to ease the traffic cut down on the travel time from one place to another is a common sight for a person living in a metro city. However, until 2014, 1000km of Brahmaputra had only 3 major bridges. Yes, three. One about every 300km. And compare average discharge of about 2000 cubic metre – second of Yamuna to mighty ferocious Brahmaputra with more than average 19000 cubic metre-sec of water discharge. Now think of crossing the Brahmaputra in its full glory during monsoon. The Brahmaputra is, in fact, the widest river of Asia sub-continent, with an average bank to bank width of 5 km with some places in Assam being separated by more than 25 Kms.

Before and After Modi govt.

Most of the rivers in Indian cities are less than a km width. Consider crossing these banks of Brahmaputra, the world’s fifth largest drainage in the monsoon with more than 75000 cubic meters per second of water gushing through. For some, it may be kind of adventure tourism on a vacation at exotic locations with walkover bamboo bridges and hopping cars on boats to ferry across the river. But for most living along these banks, there was practically no connectivity for all these years. Imagine paying 2000/- with a car and 500/- person toll to cross the river every day to work. School children walking long distances over bamboo bridges, because school buses just can’t make it over these bamboo bridges. For most of the year, trucks will ferry you across the gushing stream, in monsoon, you simply can’t travel to the opposite bank, be it for a medical emergency or daily needs. And that was the accepted way of life for most living in the northeast.

BBC in its article of 2015 writes the ordeal of Dambuk Music festival when Musicians were rescued and instruments got drenched with truck stuck on sandbanks and bus getting submerged (first picture) in the river while trying to cross the river. And notice the unfinished bridge in the background of the second picture, it remained unfinished till 2017.

Bus getting submerged in the river
The unfinished bridge in the background

Till about 5 years ago this part of India didn’t even have basic bridge connectivity; to travel for a bare minimum of 5kms, people would have to take a truck or boat across the river, crossing bamboo bridges to reach their destination, ferrying everyday goods across banks was a daily routine for people residing in this part of India. And that too in a state like Arunachal Pradesh which shares 1100 km of border with China, providing strategic disadvantages to Indian troops and continued hardships to the citizens.

In short, first there is no east-west connectivity yet for border areas, a couple of major roads running in the North-South is all we have and so you will have to come down and go up again. And then most importantly you can cross over the Brahmaputra only from these three bridges. Imagine the catastrophic danger potentially waiting for in times of emergency when either the common citizen or troops need to be urgently transported.

Bridges provide this necessary connectivity for both movements of troops to the border and importantly along the border too. A couple of small bridges of hardly a few hundred metres can provide much required infrastructural support to national security, especially for places with strategic importance. Because of few such small insignificant bridges alternative road from Guwahati to the border area of Tawang has opened up. Earlier there used to be just one way, the one which had seen Chinese marching down in 1962, as we had no other way to reinforce or reach border area except this one road, and we still did not have another one till late 2016. These disconnected roads of hundreds of kilometres on either bank got connected due to these small bridges of hardly few metres.

Three bridges marked with red circles over the Brahmaputra till 2014

Fig: Three bridges over the Brahmaputra till 2014. Old Saraighat (started in 1910), New Saraighat (2017); Tezpur (1987, the peak of Assam Accord), Golaghat (opened by Shri AB Vajpayee in 1998)

Now the same area is facilitated with 7 more bridges making citizens’ life much easier and convenient.

Fig: Accessibility to border areas of eastern Arunachal due to newly constructed bridges from 2015 -2019

The three major bridges prior to 2014, were Saraighat bridge, connecting two banks of the capital city Guwahati. The idea of this bridge was first mooted in 1910 during the British rule and was inaugurated in 1962. The bridge is 7-metre-wide and used for both up and drown traffic. It used to take 2/3 hours to cross the bridge of about 1.5 KM’s. The second bridge was inaugurated in 1987 at peak of Assam movement and historic Assam accord of 1985. The third bridge of about 2kms was inaugurated by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998. Since 1910 to 2014, there were three bridges providing connectivity to two banks of 1000km long Brahmaputra. And none of these bridges could withstand movement of heavy Indian Army tanks weighing 60 tonnes.

Bogibeel rail cum road bridge, cannot only withstand movement of these tanks it can also facilitate Fighter jet landing. Asia’s second largest rail cum road bridge, construction of which was started in 2002 by the then PM Shri Vajpayee was eventually inaugurated by PM Shri Narendra Modi in Dec 2018 taking 16 years and second PM from NDA for a bridge of fewer than 5 Kms. This one bridge connects Indian Army camps in places like Tinsukia to forward bases like Mechuka about 400 odd Kms away. With just one bridge of few KM’s, the remotest border area is now connected to rest of country by Airport at Dibrugarh, by Railways from Tinsukia and to border areas with roads with bridges which can withstand heavy tanks.

A lot of projects which were proposed by the earlier government have been fast-tracked by the present Government under mission mode. Between the year 2017-2018 the Eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh has seen immense roads and bridges development thereby enhancing rapid convenience to the people and army in particular.

As much as Northeast India lacked basic infrastructure as compared to rest, East Arunachal was one of the most neglected regions even by low standards of northeast India Between the year 2017-2018 the Eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh has seen immense roads and bridges development thereby enhancing rapid convenience to the people and army in particular. India’s longest bridge “Dhola-Sadiya Bridge” measuring 9.15kms connecting upper Assam and Arunachala has reduced the distance from 6 hours to 30 mins. Which basically means, a person who would think twice to cross the river and reach the bank across every weekend can now safely travel on metallized four-lane bridges daily to work, school, for shopping, trading or urgently moved to a hospital in times of critical care. Bridges are providing this basic dignity of living to the much long-neglected region of India.

Lohit bridge (Alubari bridge) with a length of 2.9km has reduced the distance for people travelling from aspirational District Namsai to Lohit by 2 hours. Dibang River Bridge (6.20km) second longest bridge inaugurated by Nitin Gadkari connects Roing to Rupai Assam via Pasighat which normally takes 6-hour journey has been reduced to just one hour. This connectivity has improved strategic capacities with border countries. The Deopani/Eze Bridge inaugurated on Dec 2017 is the main lifeline that bridges China bordering district of Dibang Valley with the rest of the country.
Tine Mina is the first woman to climb Mount Everest from this region and wants to start her own trekking and adventure sports venture near her hometown, about 100 km (62 miles) from the China border. Quoting her from the BBC report of 2015, Ms Mina said that the Indian army had been supportive of her cause, but getting tourists to brave the road to Dambuk is the difficult bit.

In 2019, Paul Chawang from the same town today is all optimistic initiating a community startup hub with the help of volunteers from IIT Guwahati. “The much awaited 3000 megawatts concrete gravity dam of NHPC will come to reality with the opening of this bridge. East Arunachal will soon see a paradigm shift upwards with the boom of socio-economic activities”. It sure looks more apparent now with orchards and farms connected with markets and economic hubs. With about four bridges built in the last 2-3 years have now connected easternmost border areas with the capital of the state and Dibrugarh airport 3 hrs away. “Roing is just two hours away from over-night Rajdhani express” comments the volunteers from IIT Guwahati.

“Neither Itanagar (capital of Arunachal Pradesh) or Guwahati (gateway to the northeast) or Delhi, the capital of the nation was this close ever to the northeast in every sense of the word; nor were our borders more secured”.

The below bridges are just a few examples of how the Modi Government has expedited and implemented the long-delayed projects to transform the infrastructure picture of the North-Eastern states.

1. Bhupen Hazarika Setu (Dhola Sadia Bridge):

Interesting facts about Bhupen Hazarika Setu

2. Alubari Bridge:

• The bridge over Lohit River on Alu Ghat was made open to commuters in January 2017.
• This is 2.9kms long bridge and 5kms of road connects Chow Kham tri-junction to Digaru.
• This bridge has reduced the distance of travel between Lohit and Namsai by 2 hours.
• Before this bridge was made the locals had to be ferried across the Lohit River in case of medical emergencies to bigger towns like Dibrugarh. The ferries which would only work before sunset; critical patients would have to wait overnight to take the ferry in the morning which leads to endangerment of lives.
• The small farmers can now travel to bigger towns to sell their produce at better prices.
• Tourism industry would also grow as Lohit district would become easily accessible by tourists.

3. New Saraighat Bridge:

This is why bridges like Saraighat Bridge are life-line for the daily commuters

4. Injupani Bridge:

• This 140m long bridge on the Roing – Koronu – Payu road would connect Roing and Tezu; both important districts in Arunachal Pradesh.
• Arunachal Pradesh which is dominated by rivers becomes inaccessible during the monsoons because of the flash floods and incessant rains.
• The Injupani Bridge would provide around-the-year connectivity to the strategic Dibang Valley bordering China.
• The Government has planned 150 such bridges across the state to facilitate uninterrupted and quicker movement of supplies to our army at the Line of Control throughout the year.

5. Deopani Bridge:

• The Deopani Bridge inaugurated in December 2018, lies over the Eze River connecting Lower Dibang Valley and Upper Dibang Valley.
• The Dibang Valley was cut off from the rest of the country during monsoons; this bridge would help the people to stay connected throughout the year.
• This 300m long bridge would also help in securing the defence requirements along the Sino-Indian Border.
• It has been designed in pre-stressed concrete balanced cantilever to withstand the whims of nature.
The Injupani Bridge and Deopani Bridge would give a push to the high potential tourism sector and help utilise the prospective hydropower scope in Arunachal Pradesh which becomes a reality by the much awaited 3000 megawatts concrete gravity dam of NHPC.

6. Assam-Meghalaya River Bridge:

• An ambitious project planned by the Modi Government after the Dhola -Sadiya Bridge (longest bridge), this Bridge over the Brahmaputra would be the longest in the country once completed.
• The bridge would be double the length of the Dhola-Sadiya bridge at round 19.3kms
Connecting Dhubri (Assam) and Phulbari (Meghalaya) which is close to the Bangladesh border.
• At present people have to either take a 200km detour to the Narayanan Bridge which is 60km upstream or take small ferries across the river which takes around 3hrs.
• The bridge is proposed to be completed by 202 cutting down travelling distance by about 203 km.
• The bridge would help in the socio-economic development of the people belonging to both the states. It would broaden their scope of earnings connecting them to new unexplored markets.

7. Dibang River Bridge :

• This bridge built over the Dibang River would be the second longest River Bridge in our country covering a distance of 6.2kms fully functional by the end of 2018.
• The bridge would connect Meka and Bomjur, located in the Lower Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.
• Strategically this bridge would help our army in controlling the anti-national activities on the border connecting Lower Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh with West Siang, Lohit, East Siang and Assam.
• Due to the rains, most parts of Arunachal remain isolated; such bridges would help in connecting locals to the rest of the state and also facilitate the movement of arms and supplies to the Line of Control in case of emergencies.

8. Roing – Dambuk Bridge:

• This bridge built over the Dibang River connects Roing and Dambuk is planned at 7.5kms, part of the Trans-Arunachal Highway Project (TAH). This bridge is said to be fully functional by the mid of 2019.
• Dambuk is famous for its vast agricultural products, especially oranges. This bridge would provide a lifeline to the residents who would be able to sell their products in a bigger market resulting in their socio-economic upliftment.
• Dambuk has also been organising the “Orange Festival of Adventure &Music” the only festival with a unique combination of adventure and music gigs, putting it on the Global Map.
• This bridge would help boost tourism, especially adventure tourism for which this terrain is famous.

9. Bogibeel Bridge:

Stunning Bogibeel Bridge constructed and inaugurated by the PM Modi

• The longest rail –cum- Road Bridge in India, also the second-longest rail –cum-Road Bridge in Asia is about 4.94kms long built over the Brahmaputra River.
• This bridge connects Dhemaji and Dibrugarh districts in the Northeastern state of Assam.
• The bridge was inaugurated on the birth anniversary of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the 25th December 2018.
• This double-decker bridge has a two-line railway track on the lower deck and a three-lane road on the upper deck.
• It is the first time for Indian Railways; the girder has a steel floor system for railway tracks and concrete for the road.
• The Bridge will reduce travel time from Dibrugarh (Assam) to Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh) by 4 hours. It will reduce the travel distance to the northeast by 165km saving fuel expense of Rest 10lakh per day for the region.
• The Bridge would give the people of Dhemaji access to the better medical and business opportunities in Dibrugarh which is the 3rd largest state of the North-East.
• The Bridge would also help secure the Sino-Indian Border, ensuring fast movement of supplies by the Indian Army to the farthest point of the Indo-China Border.
• This bridge is a crucial part of the infrastructure projects India has planned to improve logistics to the Indo-China border which is said to be about 4000km, of which 75% lies in Arunachal Pradesh.

10. Jorhat-Majuli Bridge: The proposed bridge over the Brahmaputra River would be connecting Majuli (world’s largest river island) with Jorhat and North Lakhimpur. The Bridge is proposed to be 110kms long.

11. Gohpur – Numaligarh Bridge: The proposed bridge over the Brahmaputra River would be 12kms long connecting Gohpur (NH-52) and Numaligarh.

– Inputs @Hchaturv –twitter

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