KOCHI: Hundreds of men, women and children laid siege to the Thevara-Kundanoor toll bridge for an hour on Monday morning, demanding that the government take steps to cover the undulations on the bridge that have been causing accidents.
Unscientific tarring of the bridge has led to the bituminous layer melting and giving way in many portions of the kilometre-long bridge. The Police forcibly removed the demonstrators as traffic was disrupted along the bridge during the morning peak hours. C.M. Dinesh Mani, MLA, who inaugurated the siege, objected to the police move, following which an altercation ensued.
The general convenor of the Thevara-Kundanoor Bridge Action Council, Thomas Netoor, said that five two-wheeler riders died in the past couple of years after they lost control of their vehicles on encountering huge undulations on the surface of the bridge. His brother’s son Alby had died last week after being thrown off his bike on the bridge. Even bus passengers have to endure a bumpy ride over the bridge which was tarred using rubberised bitumen around eight years ago. The worst part is that the government collects toll from vehicles using the ill-maintained bridge.
Mr Thomas blamed unscientific tarring by the PWD for the bridge’s condition. “The PWD and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have not taken steps to relay the bridge even after we submitted numerous petitions to them. The bridge’s drains have been clogged with mud and melted bitumen, with the result that speeding vehicles splash dirty water over people passing through the footpath and also beneath the bridge.”
The general manager of the Kerala State Construction Corporation and member of the Bridge Rehabilitation and Maintenance Committee of the Indian Roads Congress (IRC), Yakub Mohan George, said that a proposal to have seven bridges divisions in the State (each in charge of two districts) is yet to be implemented. “Only such a dedicated wing can ensure that bridges are in good condition, since most officials are focused on road works.
The State also needs machinery like x-ray units to assess the condition of bridge pillars beneath the water level.” He added that the IRC would soon come out with a set of mandatory recommendations on bridge maintenance.