It is not only Bihar but bridges are also frequently falling in Uttarakhand also
Dehradun, July 15
It is not only the state of Bihar which was recently in news for collapse of bridges, the bridges are also falling at regular intervals in the disaster prone state of Uttarakhand also.A total of 39 bridges have collapsed in the state in the past six years.
The state government has ordered a security audit of all the bridges in the state while Uttarakhand PWD,Tourism and Panchayati Raj Minister Satpal Maharaj has ordered an inquiry into the causes of the recent bridge collapse over river Malan in Kotdwar.
A recent video in which Uttarakhand Assembly speaker and legislator Ritu Khanduri is seen talking to a senior state bureaucrat and scolding him on the issue of collapse of a bridge over river Malan in her assembly segment has not only gone viral but again highlighted the issue of corruption and large scale river bed mining from river beds which has been one of the major reason of collapse of 39 bridges in the state in the past more than six years.
Ritu Khanduri is seen reminding the bureaucrats about her numerous requests and letters regarding illegal mining which according to her fell on deaf ears and ultimate collapse of another bridge.
Interestingly, last year when an important bridge on Song river in the vicinity of capital Dehradun fell following heavy rains, Anoop Nautiyal, Chairperson and Founder of Social Development for Communities Foundation (SDC) and a concerned citizen had tweeted last year that “Should Uttarakhand simply accept the washing away of bridges as an act of God, a fit accompli and move on Or it should stop back a bit, be critical and genuinely evaluate if there is something that has gone wrong, deciding what should be done to ensure minimal damage in future”.
But there seems to be unbridled mining of the rivers, an acitivity which is money spinners for the state government revenue. A vital bridge on river Song in Raipur area connecting Dehradun with Thano had collapsed last year while another important bridge on river Jakhan at Rani Pokhri on Dehradun- Rishikesh highway near Jollygrant airport had collapsed a year earlier. It was still in the process of being rebuild as another vital bridge collapsed nearby.
The concern expressed by Ritu Khanduri is a serious concern since 39 bridges have collapsed in Uttarakhand in the last five years and another 27 bridges are on the brink of collapse. This survey has been done by the state PWD after doing a detailed mapping of each district in the year 2022. The district of Pithoragarh had lost 15 bridges while the capital Dehra Dun lost three crucial bridges in 2021 alone. An important bridge was washed away in Kedarnath area of Rudraprayag district at Gulabrai in June 2021.
Another important bridge -Haldwani-Ranibagh bridge that connects Haldwani with Bhimtal, Almora and Ranikhet, collapsed in August 2021. A senior PWD official stated that failure to adhere to basic construction norms—soil testing, planning, studying the contours of the hills—is also responsible for the frequent collapse of bridges.
However, Dr SP Sati, a geologist of HNB Garhwal University, said that most of the rivers have become dumping grounds due to construction of ‘Char Dham’ road and Rishikesh- Karanprayag railway line projects in the hills while in the foothills massive mining of the river beds had gone unhindered since the creation of Uttarakhand. He said that mining from the river beds increased the flow of water and weakens the foundations of the pillars of the bridge, which happened at recent collapse of Malan river bridge near Kotdwar.
On the other hand, Uttarakhand government had been blaming the elements- such as cloud bursts and flash floods as reasons of such collapses.
Interestingly, river bed mining from all the rivers across the state has been the biggest money spinning venture from which politicians, bureaucrats, contractors and police officials have benefitted immensely.
“ The river bed mining has reached gigantic proportions starting from Yamuna in the east to Sharda river in the west of the state. Even the small streams and rivulets are not spared as huge money is involved,” said Indresh Maikhuri, secretary of the Garhwal unit of CPI(ML).
Experts and scientists point out that sand is a porous material that absorbs water thereby helping to reduce the flow of the water. However, when sand is removed from the river bed, the flow of water becomes faster and deadlier during heavy rains causing damage to life, property and bridges.
Uttarakhand state has been one of the worst disaster prone state’s in the country being hit by cloud bursts, flooding, earthquakes, landslides and avalanches taking toll of lives and properties. The state faced the worst natural disaster in June 2013 at Kedarnath where more than 5000 people lost their lives in the deluge as thousands of road, hundreds of bridges, culverts, homes and buildings were washed away. Most of the bridges are yet to be rebuilt.
Meanwhile, Suryakant Dhasmana, Senior Vice-president of Uttarakhand Congress party has demanded a thorough probe into the incidents of bridge collapses, illegal mining and fixing of accountability for such lapses.