Uttarkashi, Apr 5 (PTI) A bailey bridge over the Assi Ganga river at Gangotri in the district collapsed earlier this week, a second time in three months, giving rise to safety concerns for pilgrims who plan to visit the Himalayan shrine of Gangotri when the Chardham yatra begins next month.
The bailey bridge on the Gangotri National Highway is vital as it not only leads to Gangotri, one of the four Himalayan shrines of Uttarakhand also known as Chardham, but also used for transporting rations for security personnel on the Indo-China border near Nelang in the district.
The bailey bridge, a temporary structure made from prefabricated standard parts and used especially for military operations, was built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) after a 100-metre bridge over Assi Ganga was washed away in a massive flood in August 2012.
The bridge first collapsed in December 2017 when two trucks were crossing it simultaneously. Criticised for erecting a bridge that could not withstand the weight of even two trucks, the BRO repaired it quickly and made it operational again from January 10.
But within three months of being reopened, the bridge once again caved in on April 1 when a truck carrying sandstones was crossing it. Luckily, no one was hurt in this incident.
Apart from raising questions about the way such bridges are being built, it is also a cause for concern for Chardham yatris. The yatra is scheduled to begin on April 18 with the opening of the gates of Gangotri. This is also the only bridge along the Gangotri National Highway to connect Uttarkashi with the Indo-China border. The collapse for a second time has cut off Bhatwari, Harshil, Gangotri and the strategic posts along the border from the district headquarters.
When contacted, BRO officer Sunil Srivastava said an investigation to find out reasons behind the collapse was underway, but refused to share details.
He said construction of a permanent bridge over the Assi Ganga river with much improved bearing capacity is going on, but it won’t be ready for this yatra.
“The tendering process for constructing a permanent bridge at Gangori to replace the bailey bridge is nearing completion and work on the project is likely to start in five months,” Srivastava said.
When asked if absence of a bailey bridge over the Assi Ganga river would not adversely affect the forthcoming yatra, he said temporary arrangements have been made by laying huge pipes over the shallow waters of the river and covering them with soil.
“The alternative road thus made is already being used for traffic and the yatra can go uninterrupted,” the BRO officer said, adding the broken bailey bridge will be operational by the 1st week of May.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.