In an effort to develop Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya (MBB) Airport in Agartala, the Ministry of External Affairs is learned to have requested Bangladesh to allocate a piece of land in Brahmanbariya district of the neighbouring country to build an extended runway for the airport. This would allow MBB Airport to operate large aircrafts since it is hoped to develop into an international airport soon.
The proposal came through a request by Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who said if the project is seen through, it would be beneficial for Bangladesh as well as India.
Deb told reporters on the sidelines of a media briefing here that he proposed the central government to take up the request to allocate a piece of land from Bangladesh for an extended runway since MBB Airport holds potential to cater air transport facilities to people of Bangladesh and Tripura alike.
“A lot of Bangladeshi people visit Tripura and go to other states of India via Agartala every year. They can benefit from MBB Airport if we can build a long runway. The airport is already being upgraded. Since it is very close to the border, we have requested for a piece of land, less than 1 km inside the neighbouring border, to build an extended runway. This project will be beneficial to people from both nations,” Deb replied in response to a question.
He also said building a new airport takes at least Rs 2,000 crore and Tripura’s existing infrastructure would be highly beneficial for the neighbours.
Development of Tripura’s only functional airport is a part of Airport Authority of India’s (AAIs) Rs 3,400 crore initiative to develop airports and airfields across different states of NE India. Tripura is the closest neighbor to adjoining Bangladesh and its airport lies right next to the barbed wire fence which separates India with Bangladesh. Hence, the additional piece of land across the border has become a necessity.
As per reports, a technical proposal from the government in this regard is still awaited in Bangladesh. A verbal proposal was, however, made at a meeting of foreign ministries of both countries held at New Delhi in March this year.
Apart from airport modernisation, the northeastern state is also waiting for the inauguration of three other major projects which would connect Tripura with Bangladesh and the rest of southeast Asia through it. These include Feni bridge in Sabroom – the southernmost tip of Tripura, inland waterways connectivity using River Gomati and River Howrah with River Meghna in Bangladesh, and 15.054 km long Agartala-Akhaura rail project in west Tripura district.
Agartala Airport, which was renamed MBB Airport by incumbent BJP-IPFT government in August last year, is currently undergoing a project worth Rs 438 crore for upgrading it to international standards by providing world-class facilities.
A senior official of the state government informed that 72-acre land was earlier provided to AAI for constructing a new terminal building, runway and other infrastructure. The airport handles nearly 9 lakh passengers every year and is the second busiest airport in north-eastern India.
People of Tripura held the opportunity to have a meter gauge rail service to Bangladesh to reach eastern India during the pre-Independence days. But in the post-partition, the entire rail track came under Bangladesh which geographically crippled Tripura from three sides by 856 km. Tripura got landlocked with only one corridor with Assam and Silchar to West Bengal as a link to the mainland. As a result, people of Tripura had to travel 645 km to reach Kolkata, making the state isolated from mainland India.
But with the introduction of broad gauge railway services and air transport services, Tripura was directly connected with Delhi, Bengaluru and other cities of India. Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb, who has been stressing on developing international connectivity and trade routes since assuming office last year, says it’s time Tripura goes global and is developed into a gateway for southeast Asia.