At last, interior areas get connectivity

Ch. Santakar
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Suspension bridge was built at Chekaguda in Rayagada district

VITAL LINK:The suspension bridge that connects nine panchayats inRayagada district.
VITAL LINK:The suspension bridge that connects nine panchayats inRayagada district.

The suspension bridge at Chekaguda in Rayagada district was a befitting redemption of the trust reposed by the government in its premier services and a bright example of the fact that when the State gives the necessary freedom and flexibility with the funds, the district administration too could bring wonderful results, Nitin. B. Jawale, District Collector of Rayagada, said on Thursday.

The district is dominated by tribal communities residing in the hilly and extremely difficult terrain of the Eastern Ghats making these parts one of the most inaccessible region in the country.

While a great amount of work was done in the past to develop connectivity in such areas, there was a lot more work that had to be done. During the outbreak of epidemic diarrhoea last year, the district administration encountered a lot of problems in negotiating the numerous rivulets to reach villages where the epidemic broke out.

At a time when the officials were searching for a solution which could give the idea of having a low-cost connectivity to be completed within a short span of time, the Central government had come up with the scheme of Integrated Action Plan for the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) districts. Flexibility to take decisions and utilize the fund accordingly was given to the district-level committee consisting of District Collector, Superintendent of Police, and DFO to identify and fill up critical developmental gaps in the Maoist-affected districts. Rayagada being one of those districts, the district committee wasted no time in drawing conclusion to invest on providing connectivity as a matter of priority, Mr. Jawale said.

Since the interior areas of the district were such that a large number of sparsely populated habitations lived scattered on either side of the rivulets with fast flowing water, it was neither feasible nor economical to plan a regular bridge or even a culvert in all these locations for better connectivity. The need was to construct something over the fast flowing waters economically within a short span of time. After deliberating over a number of designs, the concept of prefabricated bridges was unanimously decided to be ideal for the district as it was economical and time-saving.

The first place where such a bridge had to be built was identified at Chekaguda, a place on the Nagavali River, which could connect hundreds of villages in nine panchayats on the other side of the river to the district headquarters.

Challenging task

The biggest challenge, however, was to find an executing agency, as there was only one suspension bridge in the State at Dhabaleshwar in Cuttack district, which was built by the Odisha government in 2004. There was no precedence of this kind of a bridge being built by the district administration in the State. While the district administration was losing all the hopes, information about Girish Bhardwaj, an engineer who had built more than 100 suspension bridges in South India, particularly in his home State of Karnataka came as a new source of light. The final shape for the project was drawn after Mr. Bhardwaj visited the spot and held discussions with the district committee.

The work was assigned to the Police Housing Corporation by the district administration, which worked out the project cost to be Rs. 1.19 crore for the 152-meter foot suspension bridge and the work began in December, 2011. The skilled workers of Bharat Grama Sethu Pratisthana under the leadership of Mr. Bharadwaj, worked overtime with the support of engineers from the district to complete within a period of three months.

With the completion of the bridge, the district administration had not only got the necessary confidence and motivation, but also the necessary capacity to take up such work in the interior areas. The district had already made up plans to construct as many ten such bridges in the district, Mr. Jawale said.



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