VELLORE: A bridge across Ponnai River in Vellore district has been damaged due to indiscriminate sand mining forcing suspension of movement of vehicles heading to Chittoor and Tirupathi in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh from Chennai and its adjoining places.
The 13th pier of the bridge located at Ponnai was found damaged on Wednesday and the government authorities were immediately alerted. Top officials, including divisional engineer (DE) of Tamil Nadu Highways Department SS Saravanan visited the spot to inspect the bridge.
According to Vellore district collector A Shanmuga Sundaram, “Pier number 13 of the submersible bridge on Chittoor-Tiruttani road was damaged due to scour of the foundation and damaged cut off wall of the rigid apron.”
After the damage was noticed on the pier, traffic was suspended on the bridge which serves as a key passage for vehicles coming from Chennai, Arakkonanm, Kancheepuram, Sholingur, and Walaja heading to Chittoor, Tirupathi, and other places in Andhra Pradesh.
Vehicles were diverted through Melpadi. However, only smaller vehicles can pass through Melpadi and heavy vehicles have to take a detour from Ranipet to reach Katpadi before fanning out on to their respective vehicles, officials said.
Indiscriminate sand mining by unscrupulous elements is stated to have caused damage to the bridge.
“For the past thirty years, sand mining was done on the river bed. There was no action despite representing the issue to the government authorities. It has gradually damaged the bridge leading to the suspension of traffic now,” rued ‘Palleri’ K Raja, a farmers activist.
Force of the flow of water, which has been running for about a month, is also cited as a reason for the damage caused to the pier.
A Highways Department official said, “Water has steadily been flowing down under the bridge for about a month now. The force of the flow too had exerted pressure on the pier.”
Since the bridge was an old one, immediate repair works do not seem to be an option before the concerned authorities.
“Our top officers and experts have to inspect the bridge before working out remedial action,” he noted.