To boost SAARC ties, Mamata clears two highway projects

The total cost of the project will be Rs 1,434 crore and will be funded by the Asian Development Bank.

Written by Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay | Kolkata | Published:June 4, 2014 3:07 am

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced two road projects in north Bengal that will connect Bangladesh with Nepal and Bhutan.

The total cost of the project will be Rs 1,434 crore and will be funded by the Asian Development Bank.

“Once completed, the projects will boost ties between SAARC countries of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. It’s a path-breaking step and we are keen on completing this project soon,’’ Mamata said on Monday at Uttarkanya, the state government’s secretariat in Jalpaiguri, after a meeting with officials and ministers from north Bengal.

Of the two, work on Asian Highway 2 will begin from Panitanki at Nepal border and crossing Bagdogra will reach Fulbari at Bangladesh border. The total cost of this portion has ben estimated at Rs 602 crore.

The second, Asian Highway 48, will start from Joygaon near Bhutan border and end at Changrabandha bordering Bangladesh, with the cost expected to be around Rs 832 crore.

“The projects need clearance from the cabinet committee on economic affairs. We have already placed the file before the Union government. We hope the two projects get their approval in the first meeting itself,’’ Indeevar Pandey, principal secretary, PWD, told The Indian Express.

The highways will be constructed by National Highway Authority of India with help from the state government’s Public Works Department, Department of Urban Development and the Department of North Bengal Development.
Land, according to Pandey, will not be a problem. “There is just a 2-km stretch along the Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary and we need clearance from the Ministry of Environments and Forests for that,’’ he said.

Gautam Deb, minister for North Bengal Development, explains the economic viability the projects would lend. “More than India, it will benefit Bangladesh as they will have easy access to Nepal and Bhutan. It will boost both trade and tourism among all SAARC nations.”

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