KARWAR: For decades, hanging bridges have been the sole connection for many remote villages and towns in the state and across the country to the world outside. A walk down the wooden planks, holding on to the ropes for support as the bridge sways under your weight is a one of a kind experience. Over the years, these bridges have been improved to allow two-wheelers to pass through and in the future they could even accommodate cars.
In Uttara Kannada district, around 30 hanging bridges have helped people cross rivers like Shalmala, Sharavati, Kali and Aghanashini. In this district, many villages are located on islands, hilltops, on the banks of forceful rivers and streams and these bridges have played a vital role. Even today, many villages are located in remote parts of Western Ghats of Uttara Kannada district.
Apart from connecting villages, these bridges have also attracted tourists for the attractive designs, vibrant colours and unique engineering. Hanging bridges in Yellapur, Joida, Sirsi, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar, Bhatkal and other taluks have received an inflow of tourists looking for a chance to soak in the views from the bridge.
Prashant Joshi, a resident of Ranebennur, was visitng Sahasralinga with his friends. He said, “I am very happy to walk and take pictures on the hanging bridge. We do not find such bridges in our region. So it’s a thrilling experience, almost like walking on water.”
During the monsoon and winter, many villages in remote parts of the district are completely cut off as rivers get flooded. Villagers in many taluks remain isolated for as long as six months. In such conditions, hanging bridges are the best option.
Earlier, hanging bridges were constructed by tying ropes to trees on either side of a river. These were helpful for daily movements but safety was always a concern. The durability of ropes was another problem. Over the years, with modern engineering and technology, these bridges were made sturdy and built to last longer.
But constructing a hanging bridge is not an easy feat. Engineers specialised in such bridges are hard to find in the coastal districts of Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada. But one man has made a name for himself by designing and constructing hanging bridges in these three districts - Girish Bharadwaj or ‘Bridge Man’ as he is fondly known.
Speaking to Express, the Padma Shri recipient said, “Hundreds of villages still don’t have any roads and they remain isolated. The government would need large amounts of funds to construct cement bridges to these villages. Hanging bridges are a boon to such villages as they can be constructed at a lower cost.
He added that with improvements in technology and engineering, hanging bridges in several villages now accommodate two-wheelers too.
“In the past, we used wood, rope and other materials to construct bridges. Now we use steel ropes, suspender rods, channels, angler, pipe hand, checkered plates etc. The bridges are painted in vibrant colours and designs. If there are enough funds, we could build bridges which can accommodate even car traffic,” he added.