PARADIP: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has finally woken up to the threat posed by the pothole-ridden bridge near Bhutamundei to commuters. The NHAI has engaged a contract agency to repair the bridge, situated over Mahanadi river on Paradip- Chandikhole National Highway- 5 (A).
The NHAI action comes after ‘The New Indian Express’ published a news report titled ‘Sans repair, bridge turns death trap’ on March 17 highlighting the pitiable condition of Bhutamundei bridge which serves as the lifeline of people of Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts.
While portions of guardrails of the bridge have been damaged, concrete slabs on the footpath are missing. Iron rods are protruding from the concrete slabs which pose risk to motorists. Besides, there are no lights or traffic signal for safety of commuters.
After the report was published, locals, led by social activist Satya Prakash Mohanty, formed Bhutamundei Bridge Surakhya Manch and threatened to intensify protest if the bridge was not repaired soon. Members of the Manch also submitted clippings of the news report to NHAI and sought its intervention in the matter.
On May 3, Manager (Technical) of NHAI Shishu Mohan directed CMEC consulting Engineers Pvt Ltd to inspect the bridge and submit a report. The CMEC on May 5 engaged UP-based Sincere Construction agency to carry out maintenance work of Chandikhole-Paradip section including repair work of Bhutamundei bridge for a period of one year. The NHAI has decided to take stern action against the construction agency if the bridge’s guardrails and footpath are not repaired at the earliest. As per reports, repair work on the bridge has already started, bringing cheer to people of both Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts.
Constructed in 1962, the bridge is in a dilapidated state with accidents becoming a regular affair on it. Nearly 2,000 mineral-laden trucks use the bridge on a daily basis. This apart, thousands of cars, buses, Hyvas, tractors and two-wheelers also ply on it. The situation had worsened as the number of vehicles carrying mineral ores to Paradip Port from Joda and Badbil areas of Keonjhar rose significantly.