ROURKELA: There seems to be no respite in sight to the communication woes of the rural population in Nuagaon block in Sundargarh district.
The partially-constructed Koel bridge to connect Rourkela City across river Koel continues to be dogged by inordinate delay. As of now, only 60 per cent of the high-level medium size bridge with a project cost of around `12.60 crore have seen completed. It is based on 10 well foundations on the river bed.
Executive Engineer of PWD Dipak Tripathy claimed that works would start after monsoon and the project would be completed with laying of four remaining deck slabs by March, 2015. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid in 2004 but the work was started in right earnest with funding from Nabard in 2009. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs had sanctioned `4 crore for the project then but the State Government sat over the work for three to four years. The fund was subsequently spent for other purposes.
Sources said during monsoon when river Koel is in spate, thousands of people including farmers, labourers, school students and government employees are left in the lurch as the administration has banned ferry services on safety ground.
Sorda Sarpanch Simon Kujur said the bridge would benefit rural population of about 70,000 of Khuntgaon, Nuagaon, Bagdega, Limda, Sorda, Urmei, Chitapedi, Badjojoda, Teterkela and Lukumbeda gram panchayats of the block. A villager Pradeep Sahu said in absence of the bridge, people are forced to travel 20 to 25 kms extra to Rourkela via Bisra block. Birmitrapur MLA George Tirkey said due to the slow pace of work, people remain deprived of basic amenities. The initial Central grant was diverted due to inaction on the part of the Odisha Government and work was started after several years. “Though works have started belatedly with Nabard funding, land acquisition for the approach road to the bridge is still pending at Mitkundri site,” he said.
The delay is attributed to Rajlaxmi Construction which has been assigned the work. It has a poor track record as the agency took five years to finish the road overbridge at Basanti colony of Rourkela against the schedule of 30 months.
In 2004, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik accompanied by then Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, who has also returned to head the same Ministry in 2014, had laid the foundation of the bridge.