CRUM­BLING KOLKATA, RAM­SHACKLE COUN­TRY ROADS

Governance Now - - SAFETY -

In March 2016, a 150-me­tre span of the Vivekananda road fly­over in Kolkata col­lapsed with a loud crack and the rum­ble of falling con­crete. More than 50 peo­ple died; 80 were in­jured. The Na­tional Dis­as­ter Re­sponse Force joined res­cue op­er­a­tions. Res­cuers ex­tri­cated more than 100 peo­ple from the rub­ble. A sur­vey or­dered by the West Ben­gal gov­ern­ment af­ter the dis­as­ter found that 231 bridges in the state were dam­aged. Sixty-six bridges were red-flagged for re­place­ment. Thirty were de­clared se­verely dam­aged, 85 moder­ately; 116 were noted as hav­ing mi­nor dam­age. Re­cently, the state pub­lic works depart­ment de­clared seven bridges in Kolkata “most vul­ner­a­ble”: 1) the Bi­jon Setu, a rail­way over­bridge near Bal­ly­gunj; 2) the Gourib­ari Aurobindo Setu, be­tween Ul­tadanga and Gourib­ari, of which al­most all pil­lars are over­due for re­place­ment; 3) the Bel­gachchia bridge; 4) the Tol­ly­gunje Cir­cu­lar Road bridge; 5) the Dhakuria bridge; 6) the Tal­lah bridge; and 7) the Santra­gachi bridge. Po­lice has pro­hib­ited freight ve­hi­cles on the first four bridges and is think­ing of a sim­i­lar re­stric­tion on the other three. Thir­teen more bridges in Kolkata are be­ing in­spected. Spa­ces be­low bridges and fly­overs are be­ing cleared of pave­ment dwellers to pre­vent ca­su­al­ties in case the age­ing struc­tures col­lapse. Roads at Kolkata port are in such bad shape that multi-axle freight trail­ers have been pro­hib­ited, ham­per­ing over­land trans­port of ship­ping cargo. Across West Ben­gal, lo­cal bod­ies, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas, do not have money for the up­keep of roads. So to fore­stall loss of ru­ral votes be­cause of poor roads, the Tri­namool Congress gov­ern­ment has brought many of them un­der the PWD. But the depart­ment, too, is re­source-strapped to carry out re­pairs ef­fi­ciently.

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