15 Bengal bridges on priority list
The Mamata Banerjee government has identified 15 bridges which need to be replaced urgently across Bengal after it shortlisted 400 bridges that are in distress following a statewide health audit of 1,800 such structures maintained by the public works department.
While initial work started to replace some old bridges, the PWD has started taking measures to ensure that vulnerable bridges don’t collapse like the one at Majerhat in Calcutta.
The Majerhat bridge had crashed in September, 2018.
“We have found that 15 bridges across the state need to be replaced urgently as their load-bearing capacity has come down significantly. Thanks to the health audit of all the bridges, 15 most vulnerable bridges could be identified.
Remaining 350-odd bridges that were identified as weak and could be used for few more years after some repairs,” said a senior government official.
Of the 15 bridges, nine will be reconstructed under the guidance of Rites and the remaining six will be built by other agencies to be selected by the PWD through tenders.
Majority of the 15 bridges are located in Murshidabad, Nadia, Howrah and South 24-Parganas districts.
“Most of the 15 bridges are less than 100 meters in length. But some of them are located in areas where erecting new bridges would not be easy because of non-availability of land. The problem is that we cannot erect the new bridges by demolishing the old ones,” said an official.
As the finance department has allowed procurement of land for critical projects even as there is a ban on unnecessary expenditure as a part of its austerity drive, senior officials said they could move forward to buy plots directly for the bridges.
“The government wants to start at least some ground work before the Assembly polls. That is why the PWD is eager to start purchasing land for the projects by January next year,” said a source.
A Trinamul Congress MLA said the ruling establishment wanted to send a message to the local people that it was eager to solve the problems at the earliest ahead of the polls.
“These bridges are important for day-to-day lives of local people. We cannot restrict movement of vehicles for a longer period. At least we want to send a message ahead of the polls that process is on to erect new bridges to replace the old ones,” said the MLA.
The PWD is now trying to undertake repairs on some bridges to allow more vehicles to pass on for at least few months, said sources.
They added that such a measure was being taken considering that new bridges could not be erected within a short period.