Fresh cracks on Akkulam glass bridge land tourism authorities in trouble

Promoted as a key infrastructure of Kerala’s Adventure tourism, the glass bridge - the longest of its kind in the state - now faces scrutiny over its safety and construction standards.
The cracked panel on the viewing deck of the glass bridge at Akkulam Tourist Village
The cracked panel on the viewing deck of the glass bridge at Akkulam Tourist Village

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The discovery of fresh cracks on the glass bridge at Akkulam Tourist Village has landed the District Tourism Promotion Council and the Tourism Department into a defensive scramble.

Promoted as a key infrastructure of Kerala’s Adventure tourism, the glass bridge - the longest of its kind in the state - now faces scrutiny over its safety and construction standards.

The recent damage raises serious questions about accountability of the authorities and the decision of the DTPC to engage with Vattiyoorkavu Youth Brigade Entrepreneur Cooperative Society (VYBECOS), a society with no prior experience in executing adventure tourism infrastructure.

Within hours after the cracks appeared on the viewing deck of the 52-metre-long glass bridge, VYBECOS replaced the cracked glass overnight. According to the staff at the Akkulam Tourist Village, the work to replace the cracked glass began during the wee hours and continued till 8am on Wednesday morning.

Tourism secretary Biju K told TNIE that neither the state government nor the Tourism Department has granted the permission to open the glass bridge to the public. “DTPC is in charge of the project and it is executed by the agency roped in by them. So far, we have not given any permission to open the glass bridge because of safety concerns. The department will grant permission only after it’s 100 per cent safe,” said Biju.

The tourism department had earlier planned to inaugurate the glass bridge in March, but postponed the event indefinitely following the floating bridge mishap at Varkala.

The DTPC authorities told TNIE that the agency is yet to officially hand over the bridge to the authorities. “We will conduct a safety evaluation after it is handed over,” said the official.

According to sources, the tourism department is seriously considering constituting an expert panel to evaluate the safety and quality of such adventure infrastructures.

Sajeev S J of Environment Protection and Research Council (EPRC), alleged that the glass bridge project was awarded to a society who has zero experience in implementing such a project. “It is a shady project and a thorough investigation should be done on the quality of the infrastructure. The CET (College of Engineering Thiruvananthapuram) approved the structural design of the glass bridge without visiting the site.”

VYBECOS president Ratheesh C S said that the quality analysis of the glass panels by Saint Gobain, the supplier of the glass panels, is under way. “We have asked the company to check each and every glass panel and submit a safety clearance report to us. The safety analysis is ongoing. The procedure will be completed within a week.

The glass bridge is no ordinary infrastructure. Hence, we have requested the government to evaluate the safety of the glass bridge with the help of an expert panel,” said Ratheesh.

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