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A river, a bridge and a wave of questions

A.V.Ragunathan
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It's risky to use the makeshift bridge across the Pennaiyar in Cuddalore — Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
It's risky to use the makeshift bridge across the Pennaiyar in Cuddalore — Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

The sudden emergence of a makeshift wooden bridge across the Pennaiyar, built by a private company linking Veli Semmandalam in Cuddalore to Aaraichikuppam in Puducherry, has given rise to several questions.

Are private parties authorised to put up such temporary structures, without much of technical support, across government resources? Will it serve the public purpose or commercial interests of a particular section?

Is it safe enough for a group of people to cross the river at a time? Will it withstand the fury of floods during monsoon or cyclone as the area is close to the confluence point in the sea?

Cuddalore and Puducherry, which have inter-twining borders, share the Pennaiyar equally and longitudinally between themselves. On the other bank of the river, licensed toddy and arrack dealers have set up shops, attracting the Cuddalore residents in droves.

However, when the river is in spate, people cannot cross it and those who dared to do so drowned.

Police sources said that on an average, four persons who were drunk, were found dead every year in the shallow waters of the river. Therefore, those purveying liquor have put up the bridge .

Big alloy pipes serve as the base and the side support on which wooden planks are placed. Casuarina barricades run along the length of the bridge. The heavy downpour in the past couple of days has raised the water level in the river considerably, almost touching the wooden planks. Public Works Department sources told The Hindu that the unauthorised structure had now been made unusable by digging a pit and dumping thorny bushes on the Cuddalore side.

The PWD has also served a notice to those concerned to dismantle the bridge in a day or two. Even then, the Tamil Nadu PWD would have only limited authority because its jurisdiction runs only up to the middle of the river and not beyond.

Police sources claim inability to check such crossovers to Puducherry for liquor consumption as they can only prevent smuggling of beverages.

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