A severe funds crunch in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has cast a cloud on the maintenance of Dhakuria bridge, in south Calcutta, according to sources. “Going by the CMC’s present financial condition, it cannot afford even the basic cosmetic bituminous material to repair the wavy surface of the bridge,” said a senior civic official on Tuesday.
Of late, broken railings, chipped pavements and missing stairs mark Dhakuria bridge, an important connector for thousands of commuters from the south to the hub of the city. “But we cannot spare funds for its maintenance. At a rough estimate, we require at least Rs 25 lakh to carry out the initial patchwork. That, too, is too much for the civic body,” the official added.
Ratan Dey, councillor, ward number 93, is of the opinion that around a crore would be required to repair the bridge. “MLA Saugata Roy and I have approached the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to finance the construction of a footbridge to ease pedestrian pressure, in exchange for advertising rights. Negotiations are on. We are hopeful that something could be worked out between the two organisations,” he said.
Dipak Bose, chief corporate communications manager, IOC, however, denied knowledge of any proposal. “The IOC hasn’t received any CMC proposal to repair the bridge,” he said.
According to sources in the municipality, the Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) was to maintain Dhakuria bridge, but it never did. “In fact, it’s the IOC which bailed out the CMC, and carried out some repairs a few years ago. But the bridge’s condition worsens every year, especially after the immersion ceremonies. Traffic becomes heavy during such occasions and moreover, those availing of the bridge have no civic sense in maintaining it,” one of the sources said.
On their part, CIT officials refuted allegations of indifference towards repairing the bridge. “The CIT handed over the bridge to the CMC in a brand new condition. It’s now the sole responsibility of the CMC to maintain the bridge. We are not supposed to repair the broken stairs and the peeling paint,” asserted Vishwanath Sen, CIT executive engineer.
Officials in the transportation planning and traffic engineering directorate of the transport department admitted that the bridge is in a “bad shape”.
“During peak hours, there are traffic bottlenecks at both ends of the bridge, especially on the Babubagan side. The congested area around the bridge has establishments like theatres, shopping complexes and hospitals,” said an official.
He added: “Footbridges or even subways are no permanent solutions to the traffic snarls. We drew up traffic management and parking facility plans, like road islands and dividers with guard rails, but these are yet to be implemented. Once these islands and dividers are in place, traffic flow will definitely be smooth.”
Vice-chairman of Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners A.K. Pal said: “The bridge is structurally fine, although its double-cantilever vertical wall structure on both sides, with an earth-filling support, has become technologically outdated now. This architectural design of the bridge has taken up precious space and is not even viable in terms of cost and benefit. In reality, all the bridge now requires is a bit of a touch-up and a thorough repair of its railings, stairs and sidewalks. Bituminous overlaying will also level the uneven surface but the bridge needs to be properly maintained once it is repaired. Penalty should be imposed on those violating the basic norms.”