Guwahati: Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate Bogibeel bridge in Assam on December 25. The river, more than 10 km wide in several stretches, now awaits the completion of its fourth and easternmost span — the country’s longest road-rail bridge at 4.94 km — that India’s defence forces and residents of the eastern half of the Northeast have been demanding for almost five decades.
“The Bogibeel bridge will usher in a new era of economic development in the region, apart from strengthening national security in the border areas,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, following a recent visit to inspect progress on the construction of the bridge.
Sited about 17 km downstream of Dibrugarh town, the bridge will facilitate road and rail connectivity between the north and south banks of the Brahmaputra in the eastern part of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
“A lot of emotion is attached to this bridge because it was part of the Assam Accord of 1985, but it is taking a long time,” said Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
For the construction wing of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) that is undertaking the project, it is better late than never given the unpredictability of the Brahmaputra and instability of its banks.
While former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda laid the foundation stone for the Bogibeel bridge in January 1997, work started only in April 2002, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the construction.
With several deadlines having been missed over the past 16 years, impatience has grown in the area. The NFR had set a June target, which was pushed back to October, and the latest indications are that the formal inauguration might be delayed by another couple of months more.
The protracted delay has resulted in the project’s cost increasing more than threefold to ₹5,800 crore, from the initial estimate of ₹1,767 crore. At Bogibeel, the unpredictable river needed to be trained first for diversion through a narrower channel by constructing a total of 4.83 km of guide bunds, while flood dykes had to be raised and strengthened 9 km upstream and 7 km downstream on both banks.