The inauguration of the 1.9-kilometre-long Indo-Bangla Maitree Bridge 1 over the River Feni, which connects Tripura of India with Ramgarh of Bangladesh, has opened a new horizon of possibilities for bilateral trade between the two countries.
The bridge will reduce the cost and time of transporting goods as Bangladesh will have direct connectivity with seven states, including Tripura and Mizoram, in India.
However, the benefits of this bridge cannot be fully enjoyed as the construction of Ramgarh Land Port has yet to be completed.
Project officials said that the construction of the infrastructure and installations has not started yet, as a result, it will take 2.5 years more to complete the land port.
According to the port authorities, it will not be possible to import and export goods from there until the land port is operational.
The Ramgarh Land Port is being constructed under the Bangladesh Regional Connectivity Project 1 on the left bank of the Feni River in the ward no 9 of Ramgarh municipality in Khagrachhari district of the Chattogram Hill Tracts.
Director of Bangladesh Regional Connectivity Project 1 Md Sarwar Alam (Joint-Secretary) said that there are plans to start construction of the port infrastructure from 1 July. He said the deadline for completion of this work is 30 June, 2023.
"There is no opportunity to import and export goods until this infrastructure is built. In order to start import and export, the goods have to be unloaded at the port, which is not possible if the port is not fully prepared. And we have to wait for it for at least two and a half years," he said.
The project director said, "Tenders were called for the construction of the land port at the end of last December. Interested contractors were asked to apply by 28 February this year. In the meantime, seven well-known local and foreign contractors have expressed interest and applied. Now their applications are being evaluated. After the verification and selection, only the appropriate company will be given permission to build the land port."
"The land port will be constructed at a cost of Tk140 crore with the funding of the World Bank. However, if necessary, this cost may increase further," he added.
The infrastructure to be built at the land port includes: a boundary wall and gate houses, a one-stop port building, dormitories, toilets, a labour shed, a watchtower, a transshipment shed and warehouses, RCC pavement, stack yards, and a pedestrian overpass. It also includes internal electrification and sanitation work as well as the installation of necessary electrical equipment and utilities.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) of Khagrachhari District Administration Mohammad Saeed Momen Majumder said that the acquired land for the port construction was handed over to the authority in January this year.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) of Khagrachhari District Administration Mohammad Saeed Momen Majumder said, "10 acres of land were acquired for the construction of all facilities including land port infrastructure. Of these, 0.27 acres are residential land and the remaining 9.73 acres are agricultural land."
"There are 61 affected families in this acquired 10 acres of land. The cost of rehabilitation is around Tk150 crore. About 60% of the compensation has already been paid and the full amount of compensation will be paid to the victims soon," he added.
However, work on the port-related Ramgarh-Baraiyarhat road widening project has also not started yet.
On 18 August last year, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the project to widen the road from Baraiyarhat to Ramgarh Land Port via Henyako.
The cost of the implementation of the project has been estimated at Tk845 crore 53 lakh. Of this, Tk581.20 crore will be available as part of the Indian Credit Line. The rest of the money will come from the fund of the government of Bangladesh.
Pintu Chakma, executive engineer of the Roads and Highways Department in Chattogram, said the 38-kilometre road would be widened from 5.5 metres to 7.3 metres.
"Tenders will be called soon for the appointment of contractors for the implementation of the project. Then the work on widening of the road will be started, and it will take at least two to three years to complete. Once the project is completed, the road will play an important role in the communication sector of both the countries," he added.
Additionally, nine bridges and 23 culverts are being constructed under this project and eight bridges and eight culverts are going to be constructed on this road with the funding of Japan International Cooperation Agency.
On 9 March, 2021, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi inaugurated Indo-Bangla Maitree Bridge 1, connecting the two countries, through a virtual event.
Built at a cost of Rs 133 crore, the distance from this bridge to Chattogram Port is only 72 kilometres.
As a result, the northeastern part of India will be within the reach of Chattogram Port, which will play an important role in the trade and economic development of the region.
The two Prime Ministers laid the foundation stone of the bridge on 6 June, 2015.