'The bridge, built in 1854, is weak owing to vagaries of weather and plying of heavy vehicles'
The Veeranam Tank Paasana Vivasayigal Sangam has urged the State government not to allow movement of heavy vehicles on the 159-year-old Lower Anicut bridge as it would affect the structure.
In a representation addressed to the Secretary, Public Works Department, Sangam president K.V. Elankeeran said that the bridge built in 1854 had become weak owing to vagaries of weather and constant movement of heavy vehicles bound for places such as Chennai, Kumbakonam and Thanjavur.
The Lower Anicut, getting water from the Kollidam (Coleroon), had a maximum level of nine feet. It was a crucial source for raising crops on 1.45 lakh acres and meeting the drinking water requirements of the people of the region, besides Chenniites.
Five major facilities such as the North Rajan Canal, the North Kollidam, the South Kollidam, the South Rajan Canal and the Kumkimanniyar were getting water from the anicut.
While the South Rajan canal was irrigating 25,000 acres in Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts, the North Rajan canal was helping agriculture on 1.2 lakh acres in Cuddalore district.
Of late, the ancient bridge had started showing signs of ageing. It developed cracks in 2008 and two of its 70 sluices got damaged in 2009, forcing the authorities to temporarily ban vehicular movement.
Subsequently, a nine-member expert team that came to study the stability of the structure detected complete damage to three sluices (Nos.11,12 and 13) and partial damage to another sluice (No.17).
The findings made a senior member of the team, Mohana Krishnan, to recommend total ban on vehicular movement on the bridge.
Mr. Elankeeran pointed out that in 2012 the government had sanctioned a sum of Rs. 6.2 crore for the repair of the bridge.
After regular traffic resumed, three of the sluices (Nos.16, 17 and 27) suffered damage. In August 2013, four shutters developed snag when the anicut was receiving 1.25 lakh cusecs of water as the Cauvery was in spate.
As the lifted shutters could not be brought down, water at the rate of 3,000 cusecs, aggregating to 20 thousand million cubic feet, drained into the sea.
To curtail the uncontrolled outflow from the anicut, authorities reduced the discharge from the Coleroon from 1.25 lakh cusecs to 520 cusecs.
“As such the bridge will not be able to withstand the traffic load and if the structure suffers any irreversible damage, it would lead to serious loss in the ayacut areas and to people of the region,” Mr. Elankeeran said.
There was a proposal to construct a four-lane highway linking Vikkiravandi, Kumabokona and Thanjavur, he said. The project also comprises construction of a new bridge across the Kollidam.
Therefore, to safeguard the monumental Lower Anicut bridge, vehicular traffic should be stopped forthwith and the works on the proposed new bridge expedited, Mr. Elankeeran demanded.