Power Minister AT Mondal, on March 24, informed that the government has taken all measures to lessen the burden on the bridge over the main Umiam dam, and said that the Power Works Department (PWD) and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) are trying to find an alternative route, adding that the proposed road is qualified for four-laning and the process is under way.
Replying to a query raised by Nongkrem legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit on the fifth day of the budget session, Mondal informed that plans to construct an alternative road had started a long time back where the Detailed Project Report (DPR) was already in process; however, the project suffered a roadblock after the Geological Survey of India (GSI) said that the project was not feasible as the road was too close to the main dam and that drilling and blasting would affect the bridge.
“Accordingly, we were told to go for another route. The PWD and NHAI are trying to find another route so that we can avoid using this bridge,” he added.
To a question on the safety measures, the minister said as per order issued by the Transport department, only loaded-vehicles of 20 metric tonnes gross weight or less are allowed to pass through the bridge, one vehicle at a time.
Basaiawmoit also asked whether any retrofitting or improvement work has been done to strengthen the bridge, that was commissioned way back in 1965, to which Mondal replied: “To assess the condition of the concrete gravity dam of the Umiam Stage I of Hydel Electric Power, a study on the traffic condition and vibration measurement was conducted by the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune and Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. A study was also carried out by IIT Guwahati.”
As per their reports, it was found that the vibration is still under control level limit; “however, they had suggested for retrofitting of the bridge so that it can withstand the increase vehicular movement. On that basis, we have done the safety audit of the concrete dam,” Mondal said.
The minister also agreed to take into consideration the suggestion given by the Nongkrem MLA on the installation of CCTV cameras to check any violation of the order issued by the transport department, even as he added that the deputy commissioners of both Ri Bhoi and East Khasi Hills, including the police have been instructed to be on alert.
Admitting that the lifespan of the bridge has already expired, Mondal said measures were taken to extend the lifespan of the bridge, and asserted that the study conducted by IIT Guwahati and other institutes indicated that there is no massive danger to the bridge.