The Financial Express

Damaged Tongi Bridge  

| Updated: November 17, 2021 21:58:32

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The five feet long and three feet sinkhole developed on the Dhaka-bound traffic lane of the Tongi Bridge has forced closure of that particular lane to movement of vehicles since Wednesday last, causing a long tailback on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway. Mercifully, the damaged section was spotted before a fatal accident taking place. Since there is no second such bridge on the river Turag to cross over, traffic has been diverted to take a detour over the embankment via Kamarpara. Not only has this slowed the movement of vehicles but also caused immense suffering to commuters because of the delay and congestion on road. Initial report says that the bridge will require at least 10 days for repair of its damaged part. No wonder, the authorities have appealed to the public for starting their journey at least two hours before the usual time if there is any emergency.

Now two issues are involved here: first, a lack of an alternative bridge on the river and second, the life span of a bridge. It is a 100-year-old bridge that cannot be blamed for undergoing wear and tear. The plan for its replacement has also been taken but unfortunately it has not happened well in time. A new bridge called VidyasagarSetu or second Hooglybridge was opened in 1992 even though the original Howrah Bridge renamed RabindraSetu on the river Hoogly was serving Kolkata and Howrah well. This is how planning ahead, particularly when important communication hubs are involved, is required. Here the authorities have been assuring of taking up the construction work of the proposed bridge since 2017 but still there is further assurance that it will begin within months. The project could be taken up on a priority basis in the light of the exponential growth of traffic on this route.

Given the dubious records of construction of roads, bridges, culverts and other communication infrastructure by local construction firms, there is a need for ensuring close monitoring and supervision of the quality of work. To its credit, the TongiBridge has served well and long enough but infrastructures of similar nature often develop cracks and sinkholes or their carpeting just comes off immediately after completion of the job. Even collapse of bridges is reported. TongiBridge is not a mega project but it is a very important connecting infrastructure and should have been given due attention to its construction well before the old one completes its lifespan. That it has sustained so long should make the authorities proud.

Now the need is to focus on construction of its replacement as soon as possible. The bridge to be built must be equally or more durable because of the heavy rush of traffic and the extra pressure of mass rapid transit system from Gazipur to be in place soon. In fact this should have been a prime consideration for taking up the construction work earlier than it is planned now. The bridge is not comparable with the Padma bridge but the challenge of meeting the commuting need of a wide swathe of Bangladesh cannot be ignored. It must receive the focus it deserves.

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