PWD (R&B) claims river mining caused bridge collapse
Morung Express News
Dimapur | July 12
A day after the bridge over Chathe River near CIHSR, Dimapur collapsed on Tuesday, officials of the PWD (R&B) who visited the site on Wednesday have confirmed that sand gravel and stone mining caused the bridge to cave in.
Speaking to this reporter over the phone, Additional Chief Engineer (ACE), PWD (R&B), Limadongdang Jamir who visited the site with other technical officers informed that they noticed sand gravel mining which gradually exposed and eroded the mid tier foundation of the RCC Steel Girder Bridge. “The sand mining was done both upstream and downstream and the activity has affected the foundation,” he said.
The ACE pointed out that the Department’s Dimapur Division Engineer submitted a report to the Deputy Commissioner, Dimapur in February 2015 that the bridge was not safe for commuting since it has been weakened owing to mining activities in the river and that mining should be restricted. It was also suggested that mining should be banned at a distance of at least 1 km each both upstream and downstream.
Limadongdang said that the Department along with the district administration, Naga United Village Council and Dhansiri River Flood Control Board inspected the site in February 2015 and observed that necessary precautionary measures needed to be taken up since the bridge was not safe for commuters.
He added that the Department’s Engineer also issued press release in April 2015 that unless some strengthening works of the bridge were taken up, the Department’s Dimapur Division would not be held responsible for any situation.
After that the State government pursued for construction of a new bridge and accordingly the sanction came under CRF from the Ministry of Road Transport. The ACE informed that work order for the same was issued in 2016 and the contractor on his own initiative made a temporary sub-way by laying “hume pipes” and started camping labourers and procuring materials for new bridge.
However, even the temporary sub-way was washed away owing to early monsoon and sudden burst of rain thereby stalling the works.
He said since there was no other road for the public, the authorities in consultation with district administration and Naga United Village Council, agreed to allow only light vehicles to ply one way at a time over the bridge without midway stoppage and that violators would be doing so at their own risk. Limadongdang said the ‘notice board’ was still intact over the bridge.
He informed that the Department will immediately initiate destruction of the old bridge built in 1988 designed for Class B loading single lane.
The ACE also informed that villagers of Seithekiema A and C were undertaking some improvement works in their areas for the approach road which serves as an alternative road connecting Niuland and many other villages. The Department, he said, has also deployed an excavator for the improvement works along the route.
PWD (R&B), Chief Engineer, K. Rhetso and Deputy Commissioner, Dimapur, Kesonyu Yhome IAS also visited the site separately on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the State Disaster Response Force (H&CD) carried out search and rescue operation at the site. The operation was carried out under the guidance of District Disaster Management Authority to see if there was any deceased or injured under the collapsed bridge on July 11 evening.
Orgs demand Minister’s immediate resignation and ‘thorough probe’
Several organisations have called for thorough probe as well as the resignation of PWD (R&B) Minister Vikheho Swu over the incident.
Western Sumi Hoho (WSH) today demanded “immediate resignation” of the R&B Minister Vikheho Swu on “moral grounds”. It also demanded the police to take action against those responsible for “negligence of duty” and misappropriation of funds meant for construction of the bridge. A decision in this regard was made during a meeting of WSH and its frontal organizations on July 12 in Chekiye.
WSH president, Zheshito Swu and general secretary, Vikato K Achumi in a statement asserted that the bridge, which serves as the lifeline of more than 120 villages, collapsed due to the Minister’s negligence. “No amount of justification would make up for his misdeed and misappropriation of the amount sanctioned for the bridge to let him hold the office anymore.”
Further demanding answer from the R&B Minister on the Rs. 37 crore sanctioned in 2015 for construction of the bridge, it questioned why the work has not started till date. Meanwhile, the Hoho cautioned the engineers and contractors that it will not hesitate to resort to its own course of action if immediate restoration of the Seithekiema-Patkai road is not done and work is not carried out with good workmanship.
Where has the fund disappeared?
The Central Nagaland Tribes Council (CNTC) has also demanded thorough probe into the collapse of the bridge and befitting action taken on all those responsible. In a statement issued by its Media Cell, CNTC also inquired where the Rs. 37.66 crore sanctioned by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways under Project Zone-8 on July 28, 2015 for the construction of a new bridge has disappeared and why the construction work has not started even after two years.
“Mere owning of responsibility in the media is not sufficient enough. The works which were supposed to begin within a period of four months after the amount was sanctioned and completed within twenty-four months was never started,” it alleged, adding an amount of Rs. 49 lakhs was also sanctioned to repair the columns of the collapsed bridge, but no repair works were done. Unless an emergency bridge for the commuters is provided immediately, CNTC cautioned, it will take its own course of action.
The public were also advised to be aware of their rights and keep themselves updated on the funds allotted in their respective areas and keep tab on public properties. Further, CNTC asked the elected representatives to be fully responsible for their actions and respective portfolios.
Book those responsible: NTC
In another statement, Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) rued there was no sign of undertaking the bridge construction even after sanction of funds in 2015. It further alleged that the State PWD (R&B) during the 11 months from May 6, 2016 to March 31, 2017 had drawn 62 payments under demand No. 58 a whopping amount of “Rs. 342 crores 22 lakhs and 8 thousands.” Maintaining that Nagaland is “facing the worst road condition in the history of the State,” the Council stated the Minister in charge is answerable to all the questions.
“When the general public in Nagaland has been facing immense hardship and challenges every day due to the absence of basic amenities and infrastructures,” it lamented, “the MLAs are enjoying feasting and merry making at Kaziranga leaving their citizens to face death in the trap set by their Govt. is highly condemnable.”
The NTC urged upon the State government to have thorough and urgent probe into the incident and book those who are responsible for the loss of lives.