EDITORIAL: Bridges at risk

The newly built bridge in Bardiya would not have collapsed so early had there been proper monitoring from the concerned when it was being constructed

The 400-metre long Jabdighat Bridge that connects Bardiya’s district headquarters, Gulariya, with Magaragadhi over the Babai River collapsed on Monday morning due to heavy flood. The district headquarters has been disconnected with the East-West Highway and the rest of the country. The concrete bridge was built by Pappu Constructions and was completed last year at the cost of Rs. 160 million. It had yet to be formally handed over to the government. Some pillars are seen to have caved in tilting the whole bridge. Then Bardiya Chief District Officer had said that there were some technical faults from the very beginning of the construction of the bridge whose pillars had not been properly aligned. The government should form an inquiry commission to find out what went wrong and the guilty, including the contractor, consultancy firm which supervised the construction process and the government officials responsible for overseeing the overall construction should be booked for the collapse of the bridge that caused huge economic loss to the government and great difficulty to the locals. A concrete bridge like this should have been able to withstand the flood had there been proper technology. Nobody should be spared if there was a faulty design and poor construction materials used while constructing the bridge which was a lifeline to the district.

In addition to huge damage to standing crops, loss of human life and cattle as well as individuals and public property, the deluge triggered by cloud outburst across the country since Friday has also caused huge damage to the highways, particularly the bridges, at 28 places from east to west. Preliminary reports pouring in from across the country suggest that 24 bridges have been damaged, some of them beyond repair like the one in Baridya’s Jabdighat Bridge. Officials at the Department of Road have said most of the bridges have caved in or are tilted on either side. A large part of the major highways and feeder roads have been washed away, and it will take time to repair them for vehicular movement. The government will have to cough up billions of rupees to rebuild the roads and bridges.

A study carried out by the government with financial support from various donor agencies had warned a few years ago that most bridges on the major highways were in a dilapidated condition and needed timely repair or maintenance. The report had said that most bridges along the East-West Highway were particularly vulnerable as the cargo trucks carry heavier loads than load-bearing capacity of the bridges. The traffic police let the trucks pass on without proper inspection. Poor design and shoddy construction, flow of heavy cargo trucks, passenger vehicles and poor maintenance are the major reasons leading to collapse of the bridges before expiry of their expected life. The newly built bridge in Bardiya would not have collapsed so early had there been proper monitoring from the concerned authorities when it was being constructed. There are several bridges, like the one over the Narayani River, which have withstood floods for several years. Why did the Jabdighat Bridge over Babai collapse so suddenly is the main question.

Landfill site

Locals of Okharpauwa have been obstructing the road to the landfill site from August 2.  The locals want the roads to the site to be upgraded and for the concerned to arrange for a new dumping site as soon as possible. The locals are now ready to lift the obstruction after assurances from the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya that he would fulfill their demands gradually.  Okharpauwa was supposed to be a landfill site for two years only but this site has been used for the last 12 years.

The locals of this dumping site had been protesting over the haphazard waste dumping that is taking place. Now the concerned have reached an agreement to the effect that the waste related problems would be resolved through proper waste management and mutual understanding. The government originally had made plans to have a landfill site at Banchare Danda for the next 50 years. So far, little, if any, has been done to bring this site into operation. The way the waste is being managed at present leaves much to be desired. There should be studies to find areas suitable to be used to dump the wastes in an environment friendly manner.