Questions raised by public on quality, inspections

Infrastructure: Not even a month after a Nu 3 million pedestrian bridge was inaugurated in Samdrupjongkhar thromde, it has been closed to traffic.

The bridge that connects the National Housing Development Corporation  colony with the main town was found to have tilted on June 24.

The Samdrupjongkhar thromde administration closed the bridge to restrict pedestrian movement until further notice.

The pedestrian bridge constructed over the Dungsamchhu was inaugurated on June 2. The bridge was expected to benefit more than 500 people.

After the bridge was closed, many residents are questioning the quality of the bridge.  The Dungsamchhu which flows behind the main town is prone to floods and swells every monsoon.

People are also questioning the feasibility study and location of the bridge as it was constructed right next to the check dam. Questions have also been raised on the thoroughness of the inspection prior to the bridge being opened.

Remedial measures are being taken. The foundation of one the bridge’s pillars is being reinforced with boulders to prevent erosion, thromde executive secretary Minjur Dorji said. However, he pointed out that the issue has nothing to do with the quality of the structure as the pillars are intact and that it was found that no structural failures had occurred.

The river has also been diverted from hitting the middle pillar by blocking the flow near the check dam.

Minjur Dorji said the bridge is slightly tilted mainly because of scouring on the middle pillar given continuous rainfall for the past few days.

He added that other materials washed by the river had also settled near the pillar.

“We’ve directed the contractor to check what can be done to rectify the bridge as soon as possible before the bridge is damaged further,” he said. “But we’ll definitely try to rectify and open the bridge to the public soon.”

How the bridge will be rectified has not yet been determined, but the thromde has advised the contractor to first straighten the bridge again. If not possible, the bridge may have to be de-assembled rather than wait for it to collapse.

“This is just an option and we are working on the rectification,” the executive secretary said.

A thromde official clarified that the present location was the only suitable area where the bridge could be built based on the drawings and survey carried out by the works and human settlement ministry.

Executive engineer Yeshey Dorji said they had to build a steel truss bridge because a suspension bridge was not feasible given lack of space and that a cantilever bridge would have entailed huge costs.

However, residents acknowledged that the bridge had benefitted them greatly. Without the bridge people had to risk crossing the river to go to town or take a 10-minute walk.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar