Guwahati, Thursday, April 30, 2009
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‘Faulty’ bridge leading to Puthimari floods
Ajit patowary
 PUTHIMARI, April 29 – It is again the conflict between the river and bridge over it that has been making a river shallow at a vulnerable point and thus inclined to spill up and raze embankments.

Local people here attribute such tendencies of the Puthimari, which breached its right embankment at Kendukona-Hahara last year, to the failure of those involved in designing the bridge over the Puthimari on National Highway 31 at Puthimari-Kendukona point. It needs mention here that the river, which was once known to be a serene one, had breached its right embankment at Kendukona-Hahara at 6-15 pm of August 31, 2008 damaging hundreds of houses and hundreds of bighas of paddy field.

Even the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup district had also written to the Chief Secretary of the State on March 6, 2009 —“The RCC bridge over the river on NH-31 at village Hahara near the breach point obstructs the flow of water when the river spills up, as the gap between the river bed and the bottom of the bridge is not enough for free flow of water. If the bridge is not raised, the river will again breach its embankments because immense pressure is exerted by the water on the embankments when the flow cannot pass under the bridge freely.

“Therefore, the bridge needs to be raised before the ensuing monsoon to prevent recurring breaches every season…,” wrote the Deputy Commissioner pleading for steps to take up the matter with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

The Puthimari-Hahara people also complain that the construction firm engaged by the NHAI to build the second RCC bridge over the river as part of the NH expansion work, has constricted the river waterway with bamboo barrage, earth filled cement bags etc for pilling works, downstream of the existing bridge.

Following complaints from the local people and the Water Resources Department, the construction firm has removed the top portion of the blockage recently, but it is alleged that the base of the blockage still remains to be removed. Moreover, a portion of the blockage is still there on the western end of the existing bridge, alleged the local residents.

Several residents of the area, including Kanteswar Deka (42), Syed Zakir Hussain (41) and Pradip Choudhury (45) of Athara, Arun Nath (48 ) of Kendukona Natun Bazar and Syed Tafazzul Hussain (33) of Kanikuchi, alleged that the bridge has constricted the river waterway. This has made the riverbed gradually shallow and wide in a stretch of about 15 km, between Puthimari NH-31 Bridge and the RG Rail line, upstream of the RCC bridge.

Water Resources Department (WRD) sources said, when contacted, that due to the obstruction caused by the bridge, the rate of silt deposition by the river on its bed got accelerated upstream of the bridge. This has led to the rise in the riverbed and some related complexities in the river course resulting in increased afflux during the rainy days, upstream of the bridge, said the sources.

The WRD has attributed the August 31, 2008 breach in the right embankment of the river at Hahara point mainly to “afflux of high flood water in the low girder of the existing RCC bridge across NH way.” This observation of the WRD has been made known to the authorities concerned too, said the sources.

In a letter to the Punjlloyd Ltd, the construction firm engaged in the construction of the second bridge over the river, the WRD also pleaded for early removal of the blockage put on the river course. Or else, the flood water is feared to pose a great threat to the embankment system in upstream areas, said the WRD letter dated March 7, 2009.