Land bids put bridges in troubled waters

Four new bridges being constructed over the Ganga in different locations across Bihar have missed their deadlines for completion. The existing bridges are dilapidated, adding to the woes

By Piyush Kumar TripathiAdditional reporting by Shrikrishna Prasad in Munger in Patna
  • Published 13.06.16
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Patna, June 12: A large chunk of chief minister Nitish Kumar's reputation of governance lies in road and bridge connectivity he gave the people, but around nine years down the line, the improved-infrastructure claims are heading south.

Four bridges over the Ganga - the Mahatma Gandhi Setu, Vikramshila bridge, Rajendra Setu and Veer Kunwar Singh bridge - are rickety at best and not in a condition to allow full-fledged traffic. To make matters worse for the people, four under-construction bridges in the state are past their deadline.

While these bridges - Digha-Sonepur rail-cum-road bridge, Ara-Chhapra bridge, Bakhtiyarpur-Tajpur bridge and Munger rail-cum-road bridge - are almost ready, land acquisition and issues related to development of approach roads are stumbling blocks to start of vehicular movement on the new facilities.

"It has almost become a trend in Bihar to first construct the bridges and then develop approach roads, which then is stalled because of land acquisition problems," said Sanjeev Sinha, NIT-Patna faculty member and traffic expert. "However, if the four bridges were completed on time, the people would have a bridge over the Ganga every 50km."

In the backdrop of fresh damages to the Mahatma Gandhi Setu, The Telegraph highlights the sluggish progress in construction of the new bridges.

BABURA (ARA)-DORIGANJ (CHHAPRA) FOUR-LANE BRIDGE

The 4km Ara-Chhapra bridge was initially scheduled to be completed by December 2015. Now, officials say it will be ready between the end of this year and March 2017.

Acquisition issues, as usual, are hurdles before the progress in development of approach roads for the bridge.

"Around 75 per cent of the land has been acquired on either side of the bridge for development of approach roads but there is some litigation on a stretch of bypass road on the Ara side," said a senior road construction department engineer.

"Considering the urgency to start vehicular movement on the bridge, the department has decided to allow vehicles to travel through the town to reach the bridge. The bridge is most likely to be ready and opened for vehicles by March next year."

Chief minister Nitish Kumar laid the foundation stone for the Ara-Chapra bridge in July 2010, and the deadline was set for June 2015. However, sources in Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam claimed that it is unlikely to be completed even before December this year.

"All 53 pillars have been erected, and 40 out of the 52 spans have been constructed too," said a senior official in the Nigam associated with the project. "Of 17km of the approach road - 16.1km towards Ara and 0.9km towards Chhapra - around 8km has been constructed as of now."

DIGHA-SONEPUR RAIL-CUM-ROAD BRIDGE

Though both the road and rail sections of this bridge is ready after a delay of around eight years, and passenger trains started to move from February, vehicular movement has not yet started on the road bridge because of delay in development of approach roads on either side.

Only recently, executing agencies of the state government started a bidding process to select a firm for development of approach roads on either side of the bridge. "Land acquisition is under way on either side of the bridge and the approach roads are likely to be constructed within a time frame of 12-18 months from when the work starts," said a senior official in the road construction department.

Issues related to acquisition of land for construction of the 18.5km approach road across both sideshave stalled the work from the start. Around 300 acres were required for the approach roads and funds of Rs 326 crore was also sanctioned.

To complete the project on time, the road construction department divided work on the approach roads between the Bihar State Road Development Corporation and Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam. The corporation is now responsible to construct the 12km approach road on the south, the Patna side, and the Nigam has been assigned the job to construct 5km approach road on the Sonepur end - the northern side.

BAKHTIYARPUR-TAJPUR BRIDGE

The estimated outlay for this bridge was Rs 1602.74 crore and it is running at least three years late. The scheduled completion of the bridge was the end of 2015 but senior officials in the road construction department claim it can be completed not before January 2018.

The foundation stone for the 5.575km bridge was laid in June 2011 by Nitish. The bridge connects National Highway 31 near Bakhtiyarpur on its southern end to National Highway 28 near Tajpur on the northern end. The 24m-wide deck of the bridge includes four traffic lanes and two pedestrian walkways. It crosses the 2,250m-wide active river channel, while the approach road is 45.393km on both ends of the bridge.

MUNGER RAIL-CUM-ROAD BRIDGE

Train movement on the Munger rail bridge started in April this year but the road stretch is still unused because of delay in land acquisition for approach roads again.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the construction work of the bridge in 2002 and the initial deadline for finishing the project was 2009. The bridge is 3.692km long and once ready, the road stretch will link National Highway 80 on the southern side of the Ganga with National Highway 31 on the northern end of the river.