Bridging the gap

May I request your kind attention to a small problem which had been nagging me from the last few days? Okay, so the problem is a small bridge which is being constructed over a small river (a tributary of the river Dihing) in upper Assam. A few days back it was not a problem, till a heavy downpour which inundated the river and the surrounding paddy fields exposed the shortcoming of the whole design and the construction. So, is it a design problem? No, not with the architecture, but with the usability of the project in the years to come.

A new concrete bridge over the old iron bridge was being constructed when the downpour occurred inundating a number of villages and fields nearby and washing off the temporary bridge which was created for vehicular communication. Next, the road was cut off due to the rising water, people celebrated a vacation and witnessed the rising waters reaching the heights of the newly constructed bridge which was standing alone in the midst of the water. Authorities shrugged the loss of communication between the Tinsukia-Duliajan road (Duliajan, for your kind information is an Oil Township and Oil India Limited is a profit making Navratna Company) and used a much longer route for communication. Well this temporary transit is a different story in itself which passes through a number of heritage tea gardens and is not in a communicable condition since a long time.

So our bridge fought the rushing waters alone, standing still in the midst fighting every second to not give in to the force of the water volume that had gathered around it while revelers had fun around it and fishing enthusiasts fished the water for a catch. This happened for a number of days till the writing of this piece when the sun finally showed up from among the clouds and a team of workers and engineers were employed immediately to make the route good for motoring. Yes, we are hoping that the floods do not happen again in the next few nights and the same scenario would not be witnessed again.

The red oval shows the bridge on the map.

The red oval shows the bridge on the map.

But what is disturbing about the new bridge is that, the engineers have not taken into account the paddy fields which are fast vanishing due to construction of private homes and industrial units around. The area had seen a rapid growth in the last few years with two major plants coming up and a few more slated for the future. If the growth & construction remains constant then the surrounding fields would be used up for construction leading to a huge volume of accumulated water in peak monsoon. Dibrugarh has been recorded to have the highest rainfall in Assam and it will become difficult to manage that volume of water through the construction of a bridge which is hardly 500 feet on the top, gradually decreasing to around 200 feet on the river bed. The actual area through which the water passes through below the bridge would decrease with time due to sedimentation and yes due to human activities as well. The river bank is the only Hindu cremation ground and also serves as the immersion ground of idols during the pujas.

I too was there among the revelers a couple of times and felt ashamed (internally, of course) because of the fact that I was incapable of doing anything to make things good and more, to not see a temporary floating bridge to keep the communication intact between the people.