Bogibeel bridge: many advantages

A view of India's longest rail-road bridge 'Bogibeel Bridge' in Dibrugarh, Monday, Dec 24, 2018, a day before its inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

With the inauguration of the Bogibeel bridge, connectivity in the North-East has received a shot in the arm. The 4.9-km-long bridge, which spans the River Brahmaputra, is India’s longest and Asia’s second longest road and rail bridge. It links the Brahmaputra’s south and north banks, connecting Assam’s Dibrugarh with Dhemaji district, which borders Arunachal Pradesh. People in the North-East have long complained of poor infrastructure connectivity in the region. Travel here is time-consuming and tedious. This has had huge negative impact on the region’s economy. The Bogibeel bridge could change this to some extent. Not only can those commuting between Dibrugarh and Dhemaji and beyond avoid a 170-km-long detour but also the bridge will cut travel time by four hours. Bogibeel bridge has been described as an ‘engineering marvel.’ It is India’s only fully-welded bridge and meets European codes and welding standards. So strong is the bridge that it can withstand an earthquake. Maintenance cost too is expected to be low.

Importantly, the Bogibeel bridge has strategic significance as well. It improves India’s connectivity to its border with China in the North-East. In the wake of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, India avoided building roads and rails in the region, fearing that it would facilitate another Chinese invasion. That thinking changed in 2007 and India began building strategic roads and laying railway lines in the border regions. The Bogibeel bridge should be seen in this context. Not only would it enable India to move a larger number of troops closer to the McMahon Line should the need arise, but also the bridge is strong enough to support movement of tanks, even landings of combat aircraft.

The Bogibeel bridge provides India with a reason for pride. And yet, it is a reminder of what ails India’s infrastructure building projects — the inordinate delay that plagues every Indian project whether executed in India or abroad. From the sanction of the project in 1997 to its recent inauguration, it took India 21 years to build this road-rail bridge. Officials blame the delay on the fact that construction work was restricted to five months per year, given that the Brahmaputra is in spate for several months. However, this is a weak argument. Consider this: China completes far more hi-tech road and rail infrastructure projects in the hostile geographic terrain of the Himalayas in a shorter period of time. Apparently, as with other infrastructure projects, the Bogibeel project was entangled in bureaucratic red tape. Delays in infrastructure projects also mean cost overruns. Bogibeel Bridge cost Rs 5,800 crore, a three-fold increase from the original estimate. India needs to step up the pace of work on its infrastructure projects.

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Bogibeel bridge: many advantages


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