OTHERS

Bridge collapse affects people in two towns

UDUPI, OCT. 11. The collapse of six panels of the Barkur bridge connecting Barkur with Brahmavar town has affected the people of the region. The bridge, built over the Sitanadi, collapsed on July 29 following the movement of overloaded lorries.

As a result, buses, autorickshaws and other vehicles do not use the bridge. The closure of the bridge has hit students, senior citizens and agricultural labourers the most, apart from affecting the economy of Brahmavar and Barkur. While two- and three-wheelers ply an extra 15 kilometres, buses and other heavy vehicles ply an additional 30 kilometres from one town to the other.

Study

The bridge has eight panels and the remaining two panels are also in a state of near collapse. According to the Executive Engineer of the Public Works Department, K. Suresh Shetty, the Government has entrusted the work of studying the damage to the bridge to the Tor Steel Research Foundation Consulting Engineers. A team from the firm studied the damaged bridge for three days. It has also sent exhibits of the bridge for testing and the lab report is awaited. The team is expected to submit its report to the State Government in about a week.

Mr. Shetty said the report would then be handed over to the Secretary to the department. It would form the basis for a decision on whether the bridge should be repaired or a new one should be constructed in its place.

Background

The bridge was built at a cost of Rs. 12.5 lakhs in 1970. The cost of repair of the bridge is likely to be Rs. 2.5 crores, while the construction of a new bridge is estimated to cost Rs. 6 crores.

The collapse of the bridge led to an outcry and the people in the Brahamvar region opposed the movement of overloaded lorries. Members of various organisations and students' unions blocked National Highway 17 at Brahamvar in August. The Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, on his way to Kollur during his visit to the district on August 8, assured the protesters that a meeting would be convened in Bangalore and action would be taken on the issue.

The district administration swung into action and issued a notification banning the movement of overloaded lorries on national and State highways in the district on August 12. A meeting was convened at the Deputy Commissioner's office, which agreed to ban the movement of overloaded lorries. It was also decided to have an inspection centre to check the weight of lorries at either Shiroor, Brahmavar or Udupi. After the notification, the lorries adhered to the rules for a few days. But soon, many lorries were seen overloaded with manganese ore.

Action

It was only after the President of the Varambally Gram Panchayat, B. Govindaraj Hegde, brought the matter to notice of the district administration that the Deputy Commissioner, T. Sham Bhatt, ordered the Regional Transport Authority to take action against overloaded lorries. The RTA has begun checking lorries at the weighing bridge on National Highway 17 in Udupi. Over 100 lorries have been fined. The people of the district now want a round-the-clock mechanism to check the movement of overloaded lorries.

Protest

Meanwhile, Mr. Govindaraj Hegde has announced that the members of various organisations will begin a fast-unto-death in front of the office of the Special Tahsildar in Brahmavar urging the Government to stop the movement of overloaded lorries in the district.

He told presspersons here that the district administration should file criminal cases against manganese ore companies, whose lorries caused the collapse of the Barkur bridge. The cost of the reconstruction of the bridge should be made good from the owners of the companies, he added.

The MLAs of the district, with the exception of the Brahmavar MLA, K. Jayaprakash Hegde, had maintained silence over the issue, he alleged.

They should make their stand clear on the issue, Mr. Hegde said.

Nityananda Volakadu, general secretary of the Udupi Zilla Nagarika Samiti, and office-bearers of various organisations were present.

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