| Vijayghat road bridge in Bhagalpur. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Residents of Bhagalpur in eastern Bihar and Madhepura to its north would have to wait for better transport facilities between the two districts, as the completion of Vijayghat road bridge across the Kosi is likely to miss its January 2014 deadline.
Sources said the construction of the 1.84-km bridge has been hit by a dual dilemma. Intermittent protests by landowners, whose plots were acquired for the project, seeking adequate compensation often hamper its progress. Besides, the rising water level of the Kosi during monsoon stalls work.
“The landowners have not been paid in full yet and they stage protests at the construction sites often, hampering the progress of the project,” said Avinash Kumar, a junior engineer with Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam (BRPNN) — the agency assigned to construct the bridge.
He added: “The rising water level of the river during monsoon is another problem. We have to spend three to four months without working on the riverbed.”
The engineer, however, was optimistic that work on the project would not be too badly affected because of the problems. “The payments to the people whose land was acquired for the project would be cleared within the next 10-15 days. Despite the rain, work on other stretches of the bridge is on,” Avinash said.
Not everyone shares the engineer’s optimism, though.
Officials and villagers met and informed chief minister Nitish Kumar about their problems during his Seva Yatra to Bhagalpur on June 2. Nitish asked the officials concerned to complete the project as soon as possible. But sources claimed that the bridge would not be completed before 2015, that too if both the problems are resolved soon.
A source with BRPNN told The Telegraph: “The proposed bridge will have 36 pillars. Work on eight has been completed and has begun on 28. However, the rise in the water level of the Kosi and massive soil erosion on the banks of the river has forced us to stop work on the riverbed. We shall have to wait till October to resume construction.”
Once completed, the bridge would considerably reduce the distance between Bhagalpur and Madhepura. At present, residents have to take circuitous routes over more than 140km. But there are hurdles aplenty before that.
The source also said: “Landowners in in Bhagalpur district were paid only half the compensation. No compensation was paid for a 3-km-stretch in Madhepura district.”
Tarani Sharam, a villager in Bhagalpur whose land was acquired, said: “We have been urging the officials concerned to clear the dues but we have only got assurances. We know that once the bridge is completed, no one will listen to us.”