: The 50-metre-long earthen bridge at Vellilamkandam on the Kattappana-Kottayam State Highway that connects the two sides of the Idukki reservoir has stood the test of time.
Described as the first longest earthen bridge in Asia, it was constructed nearly four decades ago when the road from Ayyappancoil, the once main business centre in the High Ranges, was extended to Kattappana.
Below the earthen bridge runs a small rivulet across a long tunnel through which water from the reservoir flows to the Kizhakke Mattukatta area when the water level peaks at the dam. The bridge now remains a marvellous earthen structure that provides a panoramic view of the reservoir waters.
It was constructed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) using earth from a hill that was razed for the construction of the road. The structure was an experiment aimed at utilising the earth and thereby cutting the expenses on building a cement bridge on the State highway. The still waters in the reservoir posed no threat of the earth being washed away. The tunnel beneath the earthen bridge carries the water to and fro when the reservoir water rises and recedes.
The bridge was later handed over to the Public Works Department (PWD).
Trees have been planted on either side of the bridge to prevent chances of soil erosion. Talking to The Hindu, an engineer with the PWD said there was a proposal for beautification of the two slopes of the bridge by growing a garden. It was, however, found to be not practical as it posed the threat of soil erosion, damaging the earthen bridge. Trees are best suited to be grown on the two slopes of the bridge and there is no threat of soil erosion and damage to the bridge, he added.