People fume over delay in construction of bridge in J-K’s Udhampur

Udhampur/Jammu: Patience is running thin for the residents of over 50 villages in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur district who have been waiting for the last two years for a new bridge over a rivulet and say the administration needs to be “shaken out of its slumber”.

The 70-year-old Birwan bridge in the Army cantonment, one kilometre ahead of the Northern Army Command headquarters, was declared unsafe two years ago after it developed cracks, hitting Army movement and forcing over one-and-a-half lakh population to take an 18-km detour to reach the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

Chairman of Udhampur District Development Council Lal Chand, however, appealed to the people to have patience, assuring them that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the executing agency, was waiting for the soil testing report to start the construction of the double-lane bridge.

He also said that Locl MP and Union minister Jitendra Singh was monitoring the project.

The Army has immediately built a temporary steel bridge in place of the Birwan bridge, but the new construction could not be used for more than two months. Later, a bailey bridge was built by the Army with restrictions on the movement of goods and commercial vehicles.

“We have staged protests demanding a new bridge. But nobody paid any heed. We are suffering economic losses because we have to pay additional transportation charges,” the president of Beopar Mandal N C Bhatti told PTI.

He demanded a bridge which could be used by passenger vehicles.

General Secretary of Senior Citizens Forum Garhi Amreek Singh said the administration had plans to build a bridge for over 30 years.

“The delay in starting the work is because the administration is fast asleep… they need to be shaken out of their slumber. The people are suffering as they have to spend an extra two hours to reach their destinations,” Singh said.

He said the government should consider starting the Jammu-Udhampur and Katra-Udhampur service through the bailey bridge immediately for the convenience of the people.

Sumit Mangotra, a local Congress leader, said the administration started dismantling the old bridge six months ago and that rekindled hope among the locals that a new bridge would be built within a year.

The work, however, stopped within two weeks and there was no headway since then, he said, adding the local shopkeepers were the worst hit by the collapse of the original bridge.

DDC chairman Lal Chand said, “The debris of the old bridge already stands cleared. The design of the double-lane bridge with footpaths on both sides is ready and we are expecting the work to start immediately after the soil testing report is received.”

“Soil testing was imperative as the original bridge and the steel bridge collapsed due to the sinking of the earth. It is like a swamp which needs to be tackled before the construction work starts,” he said.

Chand, who is a BJP leader, said the main problem was the water supply pipes passing through the area to the army cantonment. The issue has been resolved, he said.

“We have also been in touch with the authorities concerned. The bridge will be a reality soon,” Chand asserted.