Troubled bridge on Teesta

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By ANURADHA SHARMA LAKHOTIA in Siliguri
  • Published 4.08.04
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Siliguri, Aug. 4: The enviable arch is still in place, but the majestic Coronation Bridge over the Teesta at Sevoke is wallowing in neglect.

The bridge was constructed in 1937 and it was estimated then that around 100 vehicles would pass through it each day and the maximum weight of each would not exceed 12 tonne. Going by that logic, the life of the bridge was fixed at 100 years,” said Pradip Kumar Bagchi, ex-additional chief engineer of the public works department (PWD), Jalpaiguri.

“Today, the number of vehicles as well as the load on each vehicle have increased. Thousands of vehicles cross the bridge daily, with no checks. This kind of load is too much for the bridge, which is not maintained properly,” Bagchi said.

“What makes the bridge an engineering marvel is its cantilever system. Since it was not possible to get support from the Teesta bed due to the depth and current of water, the whole bridge is supported by a fixed arch, which has its two ends fixed on rock layers on either side of the river. To be able to build such a bridge under these difficult circumstances can only be the work of a genius,” Bagchi said.

John Chambers, the then director of the PWD at Darjeeling, carried out the design, drawing and planning in the construction stage.

The bridge, also called Baghpool (after the statue of two lions on one end), was built to mark the coronation of George VI in 1937. John Anderson, the then governor of Bengal, laid its foundation.

S.K. Ghosh, A.C. Dutta and K.P. Roy were the three Indian engineers involved in the construction. Messrs J.C. Gammon, Bombay, was the contractor.

The construction of the bridge, which was to link the hills with the Dooars, Bhutan and the northeast, was completed in 1941 at a cost of Rs 4 lakh.

“Given its architectural and historical value, the bridge should be declared a heritage site. Traffic should be regulated and maintenance work carried out properly,” Bagchi said.

PWD said it was doing its best in this regard.

“Once the four-lane east-west corridor comes up, another bridge will be built downstream, which will definitely bring down the load on Coronation Bridge. Our maintenance work is regular. We will soon renovate the bridge and apply a fresh coat of paint to it. It is difficult to find painters since there are few who are willing to take the risk. We will get specialists from Calcutta,” said Ganganarayan Sarkar, sub-assistant engineer, PWD, circle-III.