151 villages in Malkangiri to be connected by Gurupriya bridge in Odisha
The 910-metre bridge, constructed at a cost of over Rs187 crore, is a dream come true for the over 30,000 people of the villages that have been cut off from the mainland for nearly six decades.
BHUBANESWAR: The cut-off areas of Chitrakonda reservoir in Malkangiri district will witness a new dawn on Thursday. With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik dedicating the long-awaited Gurupriya bridge to the people, the inhabitants of 151 villages will walk towards a new era of hope, progress and prosperity. The cut-off area will join the mainstream.
The 910-metre bridge, constructed at a cost of over Rs187 crore, is a dream come true for the over 30,000 people of the villages that have been cut off from the mainland for nearly six decades after construction of the major irrigation projects at Machhkund in the 1960s and Balimela in the 80s. It has finally become a reality 32 years after it was first conceptualised.
According to official sources, planning for construction of the bridge near Balimela reservoir was started in 1986 but it could not take off due to technical challenges, the remote location and inaccessibility, and foremost, the menace of Left Wing extremism. After several failed attempts, the State Government could finally start the work in 2014 and it was constructed within a short span of four years.
The bridge will be a landmark engineering feat in the State considering the natural features and technical challenges posed by the site. The present structure on the Balimela reservoir has 22 spans standing on the water depth of an average 20 metre with the deep channel zone extending to a depth of around 28 meters. The State Government has undertaken a third-party quality audit through Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) which has certified the safety of the bridge.
The bridge will bring all-round transformation in the worst LWE-affected region by facilitating fast-paced development through improved connectivity, health, education, electrification and access to public services. It will boost economic activities and create better livelihood opportunities for the people. Besides, it will bolster efforts for combating Maoist activities in the district.
Malkangiri has been one of the worst affected districts with as many as 332 Maoist incidents recorded in 10 years between 2008 and 2018, claiming lives of 101 civilians and 77 security forces personnel. The cut-off area itself has seen severe bloodshed with deaths of 25 civilian and 49 security forces, including 37 Grey Hounds of Andhra Pradesh.
Taking advantage of the topographical isolation of the cut-off area, the Maoists established their stronghold and a safe haven to operate. Over the recent years, though, the region has been witnessing a turnaround with intensified counter Maoist operations and development initiatives by the State Government. While 63 Maoist cadres have been neutralised, their presence in the area has also come down significantly.