A 264 Crores spend bridge at Sattarghat collapsed in Bihar created fresh salvo of Scam charges against Ruling BJP JDU alliance in the state
Oppositon Party RJD claimed just 29 days before collapse of this bridge Chief Minister Nitish Kumar inaugurated it at Sattarghat over River Gandak
The Sattarghat bridge is significant in the view that it reduces the travel distance between Chapra and East Champaran two important districts of Bihar by 45 minutes.
The Nitish Kumar government has denied that the Bihar bridge that collapsed on Thursday was the same that the chief minister inaugurated nearly a month ago in Gopalganj district.
Denying this Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly Tejashwi Yadav refused to take back his claim.
Tejashwai Yadav is the son of former Bihar chief minister, hail from the same Gopalganj district.
Here is the operative part of the Bihar government release:
“The Sattarghat bridge has not been damaged, as nearly two kms away from it, an approach road of an 18-m-long minor bridge was cut due to surging swollen waters in river Gandakthe structure of the minor bridge has not been affected. The main Sattarghat bridge is totally intact.”
As per BJP , JDU combine alliance the matter rests here officially but however, a different debate that the bridge took more than eight years to complete. Nitish Kumar had laid the foundation of the bridge in April 2012.
In 2017, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had shared an assessment by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on distressed bridges across the country. The NHAI had identified 147 distressed bridges needing immediate attention.
Bihar had the lion’s share of such bridges at 40, followed by an even smaller state of Meghalaya at 27, and economically advanced state Maharashtra at 14. Assam and Rajasthan had nine each.
However according to 2017 report, Bihar has maximum number of distressed bridges on national highways Over 6,700 bridges are in ready-to-collapse state, central government told Parliament
The more damning part of the report was that national highways alone had in 2017, 6,770 “ready-to-collapse” bridges.
The number did not include damaged bridges on state highways and district roads such as the one that gave way in Gopalganj “because of unprecedented pressure of water in the river”. But all damaged bridges don’t need “unprecedented” water pressure or traffic pressure to collapse.
A vast number of Indian roadways bridges are old and continue to be in use for passenger and goods traffic. Town-planners and experts have pointed out flaws in the planning of bridges in the country. Most bridges usually have a lifespan of 30-40 years. But in India, they age faster due to heavier-than-expected load of passengers and goods they carry.
The telling impact of this planning-to-operation is that more than 100 bridges and foot-over bridges collapsed between 2013 and 2018. Around 200 people died in these bridge collapses.
It should be noted , there is a general pattern of increase in the number of incidents of bridge collapse and from 2017-2018 a steep hike of 189% witnessed
17 in 2013,
10 in 2014,
19 in 2015,
22 in 2016,
19 in 2017
55 in 2018.
The heavier-than-expected load on bridges is not a new problem for the country.
In mid-1980s, an assessment by the Rail India Technical and Economic Services Ltd had warned the Union surface transport ministry that bridges were being subjected to higher loads than they were supposed to.
Many over-a-century-old bridges are still in use in India. In 2017, a Union road transport ministry had found 23 bridges and tunnels over 100 years old only on the national highways. State and district roads excluded.
Yet another issue with Indian bridges is that of quality and corruption. This was what put the Nitish Kumar government on defensive after Tejashwi Yadav put out the tweet linking the bridge collapse to alleged corruption in the BJP , JDU alliance government in Bihar, which is only three months away from an assembly election, if not deferred.
In the past 6 years Corruption become rampant and The process of acquiring tenders and constructing bridges is often rigged. Most contractors flaunt their political connections, and their workers are given sub-standard materials to build bridges, and roads.
Since the Gopalganj bridge collapse was blamed on ravaging flood in the River Gandak, a 2015 report that quoted an Indian Association of Bridge Engineers (IABE) engineer would be interesting. Here the engineers said, “bridges in India are designed to withstand 50 floods whereas it is 150 in the developed countries.”
Recent public outcry witnessed when a bridge gives way to excessive load were during a Kumbh Mela in Allahabad (2013) or a foot-over bridge caves in at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station (2018).
In Bihar bridge collapse case, an FIR has been registered against the villagers who charged corruption resulted in bridge collapse .