KERALA

Renovation of Vallakadavu bridge hanging fire

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM May 22. The project to reconstruct the century-old Vallakadavu Bridge is hanging fire. The bridge had been declared as "age old" after the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) took an inventory of the bridges in the State capital in August 1996. The Public Works Minister, M.K. Muneer, had also revealed on the floor of the Assembly that it was one among the seven oldest bridges in the State.

The lack of coordination between the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Inland Water Authority as well as uncertainty as to who should take up the responsibility for the work, are reported to be holding up the reconstruction project.

The PWD authorities say that the need to satisfy the norms laid down by the Inland water Authority under the Theerapadham Project is in fact delaying the reconstruction.

According to the National Water Ways norms, the new bridge to be constructed should be at least seven metres above the water level and 30m wide. In contrast, the bridge is at present four metres high and 11 metres wide.

T.C. Raveendranath, assistant executive engineer of the Inland Water Authority, said that since the Kollam-Kovalam route was likely to be declared as the National Water Way No. 3 soon, the new bridge had to be built according to the prescribed norms. This would facilitate the passing of boats under the bridge.

The PWD executive engineer, N. Sudheer, said that a project to reconstruct the bridge in the form of a twin-barrel culvert was about to be taken up in July 2000 at a relatively low cost of Rs. 75 lakhs when the need for adhering to the norms came as a stumbling block. As a result of this, the estimate cost had gone up. Three fresh proposals had been submitted, he said.

The Theerapadhom special officer, K.S. VijayaKumaran, said the Vallakadavu bridge which comes under the `Veli-Kovalam' Theerapadhom project will be completed without diluting the heritage associated with Vallakadavu.

Meanwhile, locals here are very much concerned about the condition of the bridge. They fear the movement of vehicles weighing tonnes and elephants of the Sree Padmanabha Swami temple during the time of the `Arat' will worsen the condition of the bridge.

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