Lingering delay in bridge completion continues to put lives at riskAround 150 people use makeshift rafts and boats to cross the Lalbakaiya River every day.
People of Gaur, Tikuliya, Banjaraha and Auriaya in Rautahat district have been risking their lives by using boats to cross the Lalbakaiya river every monsoon due to delay in the construction of a bridge. The bridge has been under construction for the past six years.
In August 24, 2018, five people were killed when a boat capsized after hitting a pillar of the under-construction bridge.
Sunarniya Devi, a 45-year-old local woman of Tikuliya, says she fears for her life every time she crosses the river by boat.
“Our farmlands are across Tikuliyaghat, and we have to cross the river to get there. I don’t like using the boat but there is nothing else I can do,” she said.
Around 150 people cross the river by boat every day. Residents of Banjaraha, Auriaya, Mathiya, Jokaha, Bairiya, Akolwa and Rampur Khap villages have to cross the river to reach Gaur, the district headquarters of Saptari district.
Dr Govinda KC, a senior orthopaedic surgeon who was in Rautahat to conduct health camps in flood-affected areas, said that locals have been affected by the delay in the bridge construction.
“The concerned authority should expedite the construction of the bridge and take strong action against the contractor for delaying the project,” said KC, who had also used a boat to cross the river and reach Banjaraha Village a few days ago.
Locals claim that the construction of the bridge in Tikuliyaghat is going at a snail’s pace. Bhuwaneshwor Shahi, ward chairman, said that Pappu Constructions, a construction company notorious for grabbing a large number of projects but not completing them on time, has not shown interest to complete the construction on time.
“Why hasn’t the government taken action against such contractors?” asked Shahi.
Pappu Constructions was awarded the contract four years ago with a completion deadline of July 2017, but the company has barely finished putting up the full structure of the bridge. In the four years, only 65 percent of the bridge’s construction work has been completed.
The seven-span bridge will be 225 metres long and 7.2 metres wide after completion. Daroga Prasad, chief at the Division Road Office in Chandranigahapur, said that the bridge can be completed within a year if the construction work gains momentum.
During winter, locals used a temporary bamboo bridge to cross the river, but the monsoon flood swept it away.
According to Daroga Prasad, they have requested the authorities to extend the deadline of the bridge project.
“The deadline for the completion of the bridge project was two years ago. We have asked for an extension,” Prasad said.
Surendra Yadav, a site engineer of Pappu Constructions, however, claimed that the construction work of the bridge has gained momentum recently.
“We will resume work once the monsoon ends,” said Yadav.