Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Malkangiri, Apr 24:
Construction of the bridge over the Gurupriya River is in full steam amid tight security, raising hopes of development for 20,000 inhabitants of 151 villages spread over seven panchayats in Malkangiri district of Odisha.
The villages across the Balimela reservoir in Malkangiri district have remained cut-off from the mainland for around five decades.
Though the work on the project has been delayed, it will be completed in due time, authorities say.
Residents of the seven panchayats in the cut-off region are excited over the prospect of the bridge that would end their drudgery of travelling to their villages in risky overloaded boats.
“It used to be risky rides on boat for over one hour to reach the other end. The bridge will be a big help that would save us from risky rides on boats and at the same time save a lot of time. Bad weather would not cause loss of connectivity,” said Madhab Hantal, a resident of cut-off region at the Janbai ghat.
“People are very excited over the coming up of the bridge. They are saying it will take three years to complete. Whenever it comes, the bridge will be of great help,” said Dinabandhu Pangi, another villager from the cut-off region.
The major hindrance in the construction of the bridge was the threat from the Maoists.
Tenders were floated on several times even companies like Gammon India had abandoned the job mid-way.
Locals and the state government know the importance of the bridge, which will expedite development in the cut-off area, surrounded by water from three sides.
Construction of the bridge assumes significance given that not only will it connect 151 villages of seven panchayats with the mainland but also on several occasions in past the Maoists successfully stalled the bridge work.
The situation is different now with BSF personnel securing both ends of the proposed bridge. There BSF camps on both ends of the proposed bridge.
With delay in execution, the project cost has gone up. While in 1982 it was a mere Rs 4 crore im 1982, it currently stands at Rs 172 crore.
“20 pillars were to be completed by the end of March;only four have been completed so far. Three of them have been completed fully while piling work is on the verge of completion on one pillar. The completion time has been kept at three years and the company says it will complete the project within the stipulated time,” said executive engineer of public works department (Malkangiri) Arun Kumar Sahu.
Officials said a Kolkata-based firm has got the contract to construct the 910-metre bridge, connecting Janbai North with Janbai South, at an estimated cost of Rs 172.58 crore in the next three years.
The remoteness of the villages can be traced to early 60s when vast tracts of forest land and villages were submerged and remained cut-off from the mainland to make way for the reservoir of Balimela hydropower project.