Bridge the gap

  • Govt needs to hold concerned on a tight leash for timely bridge and road repair

Nov 1, 2017-

There is concern over reports that most of the Capital’s pedestrian overhead bridges are in a dilapidated condition due to a lack of regular maintenance.

The disrepair of roads and bridges has caused numerous headaches—and deaths—in the past. In July, the motor-able bridge over the Bhotekoshi River that connected the nation to the Tatopani Nepal-China trading post collapsed. Landslides may have been the direct cause of the bridge collapsing, but the structure had already been damaged well before and developed fractures as a result of the 2015 earthquake. The Chinese authorities assisted Nepal by installing temporary support structures on the bridge after the earthquake. However, the Nepal side neglected to repair the bridge in a more permanent and secure way.

Again, in August, a newly constructed pedestrian bridge over the Bishnumati River in the Valley collapsed a week before the bridge was due to be handed over by the contractor to the authorities.

We have also previously documented the tragic case of two schoolchildren falling into rain-clogged ditches in the middle of roads in Kathmandu in monsoon. These are just a few of the many cases of accidents, injuries and deaths due to the poor condition of roads, bridges and other transport infrastructures.

It seems that most infrastructures are built in Nepal with a very short-term outlook; roads and bridges deteriorate regularly because the responsible agencies do not conduct frequent checks and repairs. It is an open secret that a number of bids for infrastructure development do not go to the contractor who offers the best quality, but to those who are willing to provide kickbacks. This leads to shoddy constructions, and compromises in safety standards.

Most of the overhead pedestrian bridges in the Valley were built between 1998 and 2000. Given on lease by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) to Innovative Concept Nepal (ICN), a private company, in 2000, the regular maintenance and repair was to be the responsibility of the lessee. KMC further extended this lease in 2011 for another 18 years. However, it is evident that the ICN has fallen sorely short in executing their responsibilities. Structural engineers say that the bridges need urgent repair, as even the supporting beams have started to weaken due to rust.

That ICN has to be held responsible for not conducting regular maintenance work is a given. However, serious investigation needs to occur to find out why the lease was given to such an irresponsible company in the first place. In the case of the pedestrian bridges, and every other transport infrastructure construction and maintenance, shouldn’t it be the ultimate responsibility of the concerned government agency to ensure that public infrastructure is maintained? The government and concerned authorities need to step up to the plate and conduct urgent repairs on the pedestrian bridges. They also need to be held accountable for their choice of contractors and lessees in the future. The lives of many are at stake if any of these bridges collapses—and prevention is always better than cure.

Published: 01-11-2017 08:21

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