Locals worried that temporary bridge may be washed away this monsoon

Reconstruction of the 400-foot (122 metre) bailey suspension bridge over the Amochhu at Pultar in Denchukha, Samtse has not yet begun causing concerns among locals that the area could get cut off in the monsoon.

The bridge, which was in the last stage before completion, collapsed on July 11, 2016. Seven non-Bhutanese workers lost their lives in the accident. Today, parts of the bridge still hang from cables at the site.

A temporary motor bridge has been placed over the river.

Denchukha gup Chandraman Bhandari explained that the bridge is the lifeline for Denchukha and its people. “Even Gakiling gewog of Haa would remain cut off without this bridge,” the gup said.

But with current temporary bridge constructed at the confluence of two rivers, Chandraman Bhandari said it is likely that it will  not last the summer as the rivers are expected to swell.

Without the bridge, the Denchukha gup said that a path to the gewog is the only option. However, goods will have to be transported on people’s backs and on horses if using the path.

A foot bridge will also have to be crossed. But its metal pillars are old and rusted and in danger of collapsing at any time, it was pointed out.

If the motor bridge is washed away, developmental activities will come to a halt in Denchukha.

There are 582 households in Denchukha with a population of around 4,244. The people of the gewog own around 40 Bolero pickup trucks. Without the bridge, costs of essentials will also escalate.

The main reason for the delay is the requirement of new bridge parts as the old ones are not reusable, Dophuchen Dungpa Karma Jurme said, adding that all the parts have to be replaced.

Meanwhile, the Department of Roads (DoR) regional office in Phuentsholing has been following up with the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), in Kolkata, India. DoR had purchased the bailey suspension bridge parts from GRSE, which is the only certified and authorised dealer of bailey suspension bridges in India.

Executive engineer with the DoR regional office in Phuentsholing, EN Chhetri said that GRSE has almost completed manufacturing works of the bridge parts. “We have been pressurising them continuously,” he said.

The roads department has also made all necessary payments, including for transportation, to the manufacturing firm. If GRSE delays the dispatch of the bridge parts, DoR officials are planning to visit the factory to expedite the consignment.

The bailey bridge was constructed to connect Denchukha with a motor bridge. The construction of sub structures and anchorage blocks was awarded to a private national contractor.

The work commenced in November 2012 after being delayed. Once the work was completed in March 2015, the launching work was awarded.

This bridge if completed would have been the longest bailey suspension bridge in the country. As there was no local expertise to launch such a bridge, DoR awarded the launching work to M/s Ramaa Engineering, Kolkata for Nu 2.825 million through limited bidding.

The contracting firm had completed erection of towers and commenced launching of the bridge parts from both ends. Although the exact cause of the mishap has not been confirmed, only a few hours of work was pending when the cables reportedly snapped and the bridge fell apart in July last year.

Executive engineer EN Chetri said that M/s Ramaa Engineering is ready to start reconstruction works at anytime.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing