At a time when India is looking to enhance economic ties with Bangladesh, a decade old proposal to build a two-lane permanent bridge over river Umghot at Dawki, a border town in Meghalaya — which would have improved road connectivity and bolstered trade with the neighbouring country — has failed to see the light of the day.
The bridge, once completed, would be the shortest route to Bangladesh from Shillong and would speed up the transport of coal and minerals from the Garo and Khasi Hills.
The existing 136 metre single lane bridge was built by the British in 1932 and has outlived its utility. Its dilapidated state now severely restricts movement of commercial vehicles plying on the route, forcing them to take over a 100 km long detour from Shillong.
The new bridge would be built 100 metre away from the old one and would come up on National Highway-40 near the Assam-Meghalaya border and would connect the region to Tamabil in Bangladesh.
Over ten years after it was first conceptualised, the road transport & highways ministry, the implementing agency, has failed to find bidders for this important border link project.
"The remote location coupled with the difficult terrain has deterred developers. The last time we invited bids, just one company came forward but it quoted a rate which was over double the bid price. We did not have any option but to reject it," said a ministry official.
Officials now hope that the renewed focus on strengthening border trade between the two countries — which is also one of the prime agenda of PM Manmohan Singh, when he visits Dhaka next month — might help expedite this long, neglected project.
The ministry after much dilly dallying had finally written to the Meghalaya government last month to invite fresh bids. The ministry has blamed the delay on the unwillingness of developers to take up the project.