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Agartala Akhaura Project

Agartala Akhaura Project

Why in the News?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina virtually inaugurated the Agartala-Akhaura Project that will connect Northeast India and Bangladesh.
  • This railway link will be the sixth operational rail link with Bangladesh, and preparations are underway to establish a seventh link with Assam.

Key features of the project:

  • It is an international railway connection between Agartala in the Indian state of Tripura and Akhaura in the Brahmanbaria district of Bangladesh. 
  • The railway line covers a total distance of 12.24 kilometers
    • 5.46 kilometers on the Indian side in Tripura
    • 6.78 kilometers in Akhaura, Bangladesh
  • The train will start from Agartala and travel to Nischintapur, which is located on the Indian-Bangladesh border, where immigration checks will be conducted.
  • The first station on the Bangladesh side is Gangasagar.

 

Historical Background:

  • The idea of an international Indo-Bangla railway project dates back to 2010 when a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Bangladesh during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India.
  • The project's Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2013.
  • The initial budget for the project was Rs 972.52 crore in 2016, with Rs 580 crore allocated for the Indian side and Rs 392.52 crore for the Bangladesh side.
  • Due to cost escalation and other expenses, the final estimated project cost is Rs 1255.10 crore, with Rs 862.58 crore allocated for the Indian side.

 

Funding and handling of the project:

  • The entire project is funded by India, with the Ministry for Development of North East Region (DoNER) funding the Indian side and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) providing aid for the Bangladesh side.
  • Indian Railway Construction International Limited (IRCON), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Indian Railways, executed the work on the Indian side.
  • On the Bangladeshi end, the work was carried out by Texmaco, a private Indian company.

 

Significance of the project:

 

  • Trade Facilitation: The rail link facilitates trade between India and Bangladesh. It creates a more efficient and cost-effective mode of transportation for goods, helping boost bilateral trade. Both countries can now more easily exchange products and resources, which can lead to economic growth.
  • People-to-People Ties: The project enhances people-to-people ties between India and Bangladesh. It allows for easier travel and cross-border interactions, fostering cultural exchanges, tourism, and cooperation among communities on both sides.
  • Reduced Travel Time: The project will cut down the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata from 31 hours to 10 hours. This improved connectivity benefits passengers and businesses by saving time and resources.
  • Cost-Effective Logistics: The rail link facilitates the transportation of goods trains to the northeastern region of India via Bangladesh. This offers a cost-effective logistics solution for the movement of goods, which can lead to increased trade and economic growth in the region.
  • Direct Access to Chittagong Port: The project provides direct access between landlocked northeastern India and the Chittagong port in Bangladesh. This access to a major port greatly enhances the region's ability to import and export goods, fostering economic development.
  • Boost to Small-Scale Industries: The improved connectivity is expected to stimulate the growth of small-scale industries in the border area. These industries can benefit from better transportation options and access to a larger market.
  • Tourism Growth: The rail link can boost tourism in the northeastern region of India. Easier access and reduced travel time can attract more tourists to the region, promoting cultural exchanges and economic opportunities.

 

Why was this project delayed?

  • The project was originally scheduled for completion by June 2023, but it faced delays due to construction-related issues, according to railway officials.
  • The project was supposed to be completed in 2020 but faced delays due to issues related to land acquisition and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in multiple deadline extensions.

 

What is the status of the train?

  • A successful freight train trial was conducted on the 10.5-kilometer track. 
  • The trial involved a freight train with an engine and three cargo containers that traveled from Gangasagar railway station in Bangladesh to Nischintapur in Tripura.
  • While the trial run for passenger services has taken place, the commencement of full-fledged passenger train services between Agartala-Akhaura and Agartala-Chittagong is expected to happen based on discussions between the governments of both countries.

 

Why is this project significant to Tripura?

  • The project is of great practical significance for land-locked Tripura, as it enhances connectivity with Bangladesh and reduces the distance to Kolkata, making Tripura a gateway for tourism.
  • The railway project holds emotional significance due to Tripura's history of providing shelter to East Pakistani refugees during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and its role in supporting the creation of Bangladesh.



Other notable India-Bangladesh Projects


  • Other trains between the two countries include the Bandhan Express, the Maitree Express, and the Mitali Express, running between West Bengal and various destinations in Bangladesh, reestablishing and enhancing rail links between the two nations.

  • Khulna-Mongla Port Rail Line
    • Project Cost: USD 388.92 million.
    • Length: Approximately 65 km of broad gauge rail route.
    • Funding: Implemented under the Government of India concessional Line of Credit.
    • SignificanceConnects Mongla, the second largest port of Bangladesh, to the broad-gauge railway network, facilitating transportation of goods and boosting economic activity.
  • Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant
    • Project Cost: USD 1.6 billion.
    • Capacity: 1320 MW (2x660) Super Thermal Power Plant (MSTPP).
    • Location: Rampal in Khulna Division of Bangladesh.
    • Implementation: Undertaken by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Private) Limited (BIFPCL), a 50:50 Joint Venture between India's NTPC Ltd and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB).
    • Significance: Enhances energy security in Bangladesh. 
      • Unit-I of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant was previously inaugurated in September 2022
      • Unit-II will be inaugurated on November 1, 2023, further contributing to the power generation capacity in the region.

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