The Bhupen Hazarika Bridge – The Longest Bridge in India

Dr. R Kuberan, Senior Editor (Technical), Civil Engineering and Construction Review.

The Bhupen Hazarika Setu, also referred to as the Dhola–Sadiya Bridge is a beam bridge in India, connecting the northeast states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The bridge spans the Lohit River, a major tributary of the Brahmaputra River, from the village of Dhola (Tinsukia District) in the south to Sadiya to the north. The bridge is the first permanent road connection between the northern Assam and eastern Arunachal Pradesh.

At 9.15 kilometres (5.69 mi) in length, it is the longest bridge in India. However, the New Ganga Bridge Project under construction in the Indian state of Bihar, is expected to become the longest bridge in India upon its estimated completion in December 2020, with a length of 9.8 kilometres (6.1 mi).

With rapid movement of India’s defence assets in mind following incursions by the Chinese Army, the Dhola–Sadiya Bridge has been designed to handle the weight of 60-tonne (130,000-pound) tanks such as the Indian Army’s Arjun and T-72 main battle tanks.Since the Sino-Indian War, China has disputed India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh, politically and militarily, along the Line of Actual Control, making the bridge an important tactical asset in the ongoing dispute.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways completed a feasibility study of the project in August 2003 after demands from local constituents. In January 2009 the bridge was approved for construction with funding from the Government of India as part of the Arunachal Pradesh Package of Roads and Highways.

Construction began in November 2011 as a public-private partnership with Navayuga Engineering Company, with an expected completion in 2015. However, due to construction delays and cost increases, the bridge’s completion date was pushed into 2017.

The project cost was around Rs.10 billion (US$156 million) and construction took over five years to complete. It is 3.55 kilometres (2.21 mi) longer than the Bandra Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, making it the longest bridge in India.

The bridge was inaugurated on 26 May 2017 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari (Minister of Road Transport and Highways). The bridge is named after Bhupen Hazarika, a famous musician, poet, filmmaker and lyricist from Assam.

Things to Know About the Dhola-Sadiyabridge

1. Owing to poor connectivity and transport issues, Sadiya has always been an isolated and disadvantaged town in Assam. It is a subdivision of Tinsukia district, bounded by rivers on three sides: Lohit, Brahmaputra and Dibang. The new bridge is expected to change the transportation scenario of the region.

2. Sadiya is the birthplace of iconic singer Bhupen Hazarika. It was once a thriving town until an earthquake struck on August 15, 1950 and the mighty Brahmaputra changed its course, engulfing half the town within days. Since then, the place has been struggling with transportation woes.

3. The fourth bridge on the Brahmaputra, it will boost communication across eastern Arunachal Pradesh. The most significant beneficiary will be the Army, whose convoys will now save an estimated three to four hours in their journey from Assam to their posts at Kibithoo, Wallong and Chaglagam on the Arunachal-China border. Thus, the bridge is a great strategic boost to India’s defence capabilities in the North East.

4. Considering the geological vulnerabilities of the North East, being a high-seismic region, the bridge was built using state-of-the-art equipment, including imported hydraulic rigs, and provided seismic buffers in all its 182 piers.

5. The road transport and highways ministry cleared a feasibility study in August 2003 after demands from the locals. Construction began in 2011 and the original target date for completion was December 2015 but deadlines were breached and there were cost overruns.

6. The bridge shall enhance Indian Army’s mobilisation capabilities and movement of troops and heavy equipment in the forward areas bordering China. As of now, Army convoys in Assam either spend hours crossing the river by boat from Dhola to Sadiya, or take a circuitous 10-hour, 250 km road trip from Dinjan division HQ, near Tinsukia, to Tezu in Arunachal, before driving ahead to the border.

7. The bridge is said to withstand the weight of a 60-tonne battle tank.

8. The bridge is located 540 km away from Dispur, the capital of Assam, and 300 km away from Itanagar, the Arunachal capital. People from Arunachal travelling to the airport in Dibrugarh or the main railway station in Tinsukia can access the bridge to reach faster.

9. Presently, it takes eight to ten hours from the border district of Anjaw in Arunachal Pradesh to Tezu, followed by another eight hours to Tinsukia or five hours to Dibrugarh. The new bridge will cut this travel time by four to five hours.

10. In contrast to the architectural and transportation accomplishment that the bridge has achieved, there’s a human cost of displacement as well. The boatmen who used to deploy all their boats whenever an Army convoy arrived have lost a big share of their business. Around 150 boats used to ply between the two ends of the river and with the inauguration of the bridge, their livelihood issue should be considered by the government.