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High Court to Gujarat govt: Don’t repeat Morbi ‘engineering disaster’ while repairing Gondal bridges

Have you ensured that the repairs are not done in the manner in which it was done with Morbi bridge? We will also ask you to make sure and also submit periodical reports with regards to its repairs, observes the Chief Justice

PTI Ahmedabad Published 29.11.23, 08:12 PM
Gujarat High Court.

Gujarat High Court. File picture

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed the state government not to repeat the Morbi “engineering disaster” while repairing two over-a-century-old bridges in Gondal town.

The division bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha P Mayee made the remark after it was informed by the government that it had undertaken repair works for two bridges in Gondal town of Rajkot district that were built by the erstwhile King Bhagvatsinhji Maharaj over a century ago.

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The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking its directions for urgent repairs of the two bridges which were used by the public despite being dilapidated to avoid a Morbi-like tragedy.

Morbi, about 100 km from Gondal in the same district, had witnessed a massive tragedy when a British-era suspension bridge collapsed, killing 135 people, on October 30 last year.

The government pleader told the court that Rs 17 crore was sanctioned towards the construction of two new bridges, with the possibility of demolishing one of the existing old bridges.

The court said the iconic structures do not need to be demolished but repaired with the help of conservation architects. At the same time, the government should make sure that the repairs of the old heritage structure are carried out with care so as not to repeat what happened in Morbi.

“Have you ensured that the repairs are not done in the manner in which it was done with Morbi bridge? We will also ask you to make sure and also submit periodical reports with regards to its repairs, because if you are repairing an old structure or heritage structure, the same material is to be used,” the Chief Justice observed.

“You cannot change the material. In the Morbi bridge case, they replaced wooden planks with aluminium planks, which has resulted in falling of the bridge. That was an engineering disaster,” Chief Justice Agarwal said.

She said the court will need periodical reports with regard to the materials being used for the repair of the old bridges.

“And that necessarily has to be the same material for renovation or preservation of any heritage structure, you have to use the same material,” the Chief Justice noted, adding that to achieve that, the expertise of a conservation architect will be required.

“For renovation of any heritage property, you cannot go like what you have done with Morbi bridge. Please do not do this,” the court said.

The PIL, filed by lawyer Yatish Desai, said that the bridges on the Gondal river are around a century old and in a very dilapidated condition.

The traffic of the city and surrounding villages passes through these bridges, which overflow during the monsoon, and the structures also witness traffic jams during peak hours as they serve as entry points to Gondal, the petition stated.

Desai in the plea claimed that he had approached various authorities to raise the issue of the condition of these bridges to ensure that Morbi-like incidents did not take place.

The Gondal municipality had in a letter dated March 19, 2020, admitted that the bridges require urgent attention, the PIL said.

Despite being aware of the precarious condition of the bridges, the authorities have not taken any steps to repair them, it said.

On October 30, 2022, a British-era suspension bridge on Machhu river in Morbi collapsed, killing 135, including 50 children.

A state-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), in its interim and final reports submitted to the High Court, found several lapses in repairs, maintenance and operation of the bridge by Oreva Group. It also found several design faults in the bridge post-renovation works, contributing to its collapse.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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