Portion of 30-year-old structure in Paramankeni, near ECR, collapsed in Aug.

A narrow bridge across south Buckingham canal, the only link to nearby areas for residents of Paramankeni, is on the verge of collapsing.

Paramankeni lies close to the tourist spot of Mudaliyarkuppam on East Coast Road.

Schoolchildren from 10 villages, including Mugaiyur, Ellaiammankoil, Nainarkuppam and Perunduravu, and about 450 families residing in Paramankeni depend on the single-lane bridge for day-to-day travel.

A small portion of the bridge gave way in August, following which a team from the water resources department (WRD) placed boulders and sand bags to support the damaged portion.

“We had to conduct a road roko to attract the attention of officials to the state of the bridge. People from various places visit our village dispensary. The bridge is very unsafe to use,” says Ganamuthu, a resident of Paramankeni panchayat.

WRD has prepared a project proposal to construct a new bridge at a cost of Rs. 4 crore. “The existing bridge across the 70-metre-wide canal is hardly three metres wide. The new bridge will be 5.25 metres wide. Once the State government approves the project, we will begin work immediately and complete it in a year,” says an official.

Until the new bridge comes up, residents say they don’t have a choice but to cross the canal, which is 8-10 feet deep, on small boats. The canal converges with the sea a little further away.

Concrete has worn out on many portions of the nearly 30-year-old bridge and rusted iron rods are visible on almost all pillars. Pieces of concrete crumble at a mere touch, say residents.

After the collapse in August, residents have restricted the movement of vehicles on the bridge.

Murugavel, another resident, says fishermen like him are unable to sell their catch as vehicles refuse to ply on the bridge.

“Many of us avoid walking on the bridge after dusk as there is little illumination. Also, there is no side wall. Pedestrians face risk of falling whenever vehicles pass too close to the edge,” he says. Cheyyur MLA, V.S. Raji, says, if not for the bridge, residents have to take a detour of more than five km via Mugaiyur. If the bridge is rebuilt, it will also provide tourists, access to the beach and the fish market, he says.

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