The much awaited Bogibeel Bridge in Assam is finally nearing completion.
The rail-cum-road bridge over Brahmaputra River connecting Dibrugarh and Dhemaji will be the longest in the country and only second in entire Asia with a total length of 4.94 km, revised from an initial estimated length of 4.31 kilometres.
It is designed to carry a double line 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge railway on the lower deck and a three-lane road on the upper deck.
However, this is still short a width compared to the Howrah Bridge has a width of 71 feet, not including the 14 feet footpaths on both sides, which was constructed by British engineers nine decades ago.
The Howrah Bridge is arguably the world’s busiest cantilever bridge, bearing a load of around 100,000 vehicles and over 150,000 pedestrians each day. To put those figures in perspective, traffic in 1946 was recorded as little over 27,000 vehicles, around 121,000 pedestrians, and close to 3,000 cattle.
Bogibeel bridge will be a big boost for the defence forces, apart from regular transportation, as it will provide faster connectivity to areas near the India-China border. This means swifter movement of troops and weapons systems.
But a leap to the future will raise several uncomfortable questions.
What about the traffic about 50 years later?
Will the three lane road bridge suffice the load of traffic at that point of time along with defence vehicles also moving alongside?
A foresight in constructing a four-lane road would have more feasible in the future as the bridge will turn out to be strategically importance both for defence and civil transportation.
The same is the case with the Dhola-Sadia Bridge which boasts of being the longest road bridge in the country do not have four-lane keeping the future in mind.
Structurally, no doubt the Bogibeel bridge is the most technologically advanced bridge in the country with 100 per cent welded bridge.
Technology from firms of Sweden and Denmark has been used for its construction.
One advantage of a 100 per cent welded ridge is that it is light and the fully welded girders mean reduction in the weight when compared to riveted girders.
Built around 32 metres above the Brahmaputra river water level, the design of the bridge is similar to that of a bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden.
The design of Bogibeel bridge has 39 spans of 125 m and a superstructure of composite welded steel truss and reinforced concrete.
Keeping these technologies in front, it would have been better if the bridge would have had a four-lane road connectivity looking into the future.
Talking about the new Saraighat Bridge, lack of foresight again came into play in the commissioning and construction of the bridge as just a road bridge which could easily be a second rail-cum road bridge to ease both vehicular traffic and rail traffic.
Now the custodians of power are contemplating for construction of a second rail bridge at the same place parallel to the old and new Saraighat bridges.
Cut to Tezpur, same is the case with the Kolia Bhomora Bridge.
It would have been an added advantage had the bridge been constructed as rail-cum road bridge keeping in view the increasing traffic and the need for rail connectivity over the span of time.
A time is just round the corner, when the need will arise for a rail bridge parallel to the Kolia Bhomora Bridge.
These additional bridges will tax the exchequer heavily when these additional bridges will be constructed.
The monetary involvement would have much less had these bridges been constructed as rail-cum-road bridges at one go.
These reflect the callousness and shortsightedness of the policy makers or is it greed to fill their own coffers in installments?
Secondly, construction of parallel bridges at the same time would adversely affect the natural flow of the mighty Brahmaputra River.
It needs no expert study to say that tampering with the natural flow is seriously detrimental for a river of the magnitude of Brahmaputra.
This is bound to have adverse effects not only on the natural course of River Brahmaputra but is sure to have a telling effect on the ecological system of the entire Brahmaputra valley in the future.