PWD Minister G. Sudhakaran on Tuesday expressed deep anxiety about the state of disrepair of most bridges in Kerala.
Replying to the debate on demand on grants for public works in the Assembly, the Minister revealed that only 606 of the 2,300 bridges could be deemed safe. An estimated 365 bridges needed “emergency replacement”.
He blamed shoddy construction, use of poor quality construction material, corruption, administrative apathy, lack of upkeep and periodic inspections, and unchecked river sand-mining for the dangerous state of bridges.
Surprisingly 10 bridges, all of them over 100 years old, have showed remarkable resilience and were in excellent condition despite the years of heavy traffic, wear and tear, and extreme weather.
Six of the grand old structures were in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of erstwhile Travancore. “These grand monuments to human ingenuity and effort have to be honoured by organising local-level fetes,” he said.
In comparison to them, the Enathu bridge in Kollam district collapsed 19 years after it was opened to traffic. Shoddy construction, use of low grade material, both facilitated by lack of supervision and corruption, were the reasons.
He said the government had acquired a ₹10-crore machine that could dig up, lay, and resurface roads at once. The German machine had reached the Mangaluru port. It would save workers and the environment from the heat, smoke, and grime of the conventional hot-tarring process.
The PWD rest houses would be redone totally. Some would be razed to ground and reconstructed and others extended to create more rooms.
The government had recruited 1,207 staff to maintain guest houses. Affordable stay and homely food would be available to the public.
Mr. Sudhakaran said Kerala was on the fast track to a pot-hole free highly motorable state. Roads would be re-contoured and beautified. They would be greened and tree lined wherever possible.
He said dues of government contractors would be met. The State would give them bank guarantee to tide over the current crisis.