Bijon Setu check-up put off
A proposal to study the health of Bijon Setu over the weekend has been scrapped because police have raised objections fearing the traffic mess it would create ahead of Calcutta’s biggest shopping season.
A section of engineers, however, questioned the decision to prioritise shopping over the safety of thousands of commuters.
The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), the custodian of the flyover that connects Kasba with the Gariahat area, had sought a shutdown of the corridor from Friday night till early on Monday because of a load test.
“We are not closing Bijon Setu before Puja. The police have requested us to defer the health study of the bridge. We will conduct the load test and the health study after Puja so that people are less inconvenienced,” said a senior official of the CMDA.
A police officer said they would try to allot the CMDA a weekend around Kali Puja for the load test. “The number of shoppers at Gariahat during Kali Puja is far less than Durga Puja. The health study is important, too. That won’t be delayed for long,” the officer said.
Asked whether shopping was more important than the health study of a bridge, a senior police officer said: “We had asked the CMDA whether the test had to be done immediately. They said it can be done later and there is no safety concern over the bridge.... If the bridge is closed now, traffic will be badly hit,” he added.
Calcutta has witnessed three bridge collapses in the last six years that killed over 30 people (see graphic).
The CMDA has been conducting health study of bridges and flyovers across Calcutta since the collapse of the Majerhat bridge in September 2018.
Engineers had said many of Calcutta’s bridges were built decades back and most of them have never undergone any rigorous health study. Metro has reported that roots have penetrated the underbelly of Bijon Setu.
Several shops under the bridge have drilled holes into the columns to install air-conditioners.
“I feel it is not right to scrap the health study on the ground that traffic would be affected ahead of the Puja,” said a civil engineer who teaches at one of India’s premier engineering colleges.
Another engineer said a similar fear of traffic disruption prevented the authorities from taking necessary measures related to the upkeep of Majerhat bridge, which finally collapsed.
But a senior engineer who advises the state government on the health study of bridges and flyovers said: “The condition of Bijon Setu is not critical. We allowed the postponement because a preliminary study didn’t reveal anything alarming about the bridge.”
An official of the CMDA said the agency had decided not to close any flyover or bridge in the city ahead of Durga Puja.
The Ultadanga-bound flank of the EM Bypass witnessed huge traffic snarls following the closure of the Chingrighata flyover between Friday and Monday morning for a health study.
The flyover was supposed to be reopened at 8am on Monday but the CMDA sought time till 11.30am.
“I boarded a bus in front of Acropolis Mall at 10am on Monday and could reach Beleghata only around noon. The distance is usually covered in 30 to 45 minutes,” a resident of Kasba said.
On Monday, police informed the CMDA that closing the bridge around this time would create a lot of difficulties. Sources in the police said that with only three weeks left before Puja, thousands of shoppers are coming to Gariahat everyday.
The number increases manifold during the weekend when the CMDA had planned to close the bridge. A police officer said that the closure would have created great inconvenience for the shoppers.
Stung by the crippling effect of the flyover’s closure police realised if similar snarls take place on all the roads leading to Gariahat around Puja, it would be very difficult to manage it.