INDIA: Rs 247-crore bridge in tatters: NHAI turns up the heat on contractor

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JUNE 30 2023

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) started patching up the potholes on Thursday soon after mid-day’s report of substandard work on the Rs 247-crore Vasai Creek bridge hit the newsstand. Next, officials plan to conduct an analysis to find out the reason behind the damage on the newly built road and subsequently take action against the contractor. Commuters, activists and politicians have, however, demanded that NHAI officials assigned to the Rs 247-crore project be punished, too.

NHAI assures action

NHAI official Suhas Chitnis told mid-day, “The potholes on the bridge are being repaired on priority. We tried to fix the potholes on Wednesday, too, but due to continuous rainfall and traffic, we could not complete the work. NHAI will also carry out an analysis of the work to find out the reason behind the potholes on the newly made road. Action will be initiated against the contractors who carried out the construction of the bridge over Vasai creek, near Varsova, on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway.”

The exposed iron rods on the bridge on Thursday

An NHAI official said the contractor was Vijay M Mistry Construction Pvt Ltd and NG Project (JV). Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Rajan Vichare, a Lok Sabha MP from Thane, said, “The potholes and uneven surface of the newly built road, following just three to four days of rain, show that  material of inferior grade was utilised during construction. It is necessary to hold the contractor and the NHAI officials in charge of the construction accountable and take action against them.”

‘Will repair last?’

Commuters were sceptical of the temporary solution, stating that the brand new bridge, which started crumbling in just four days of rainfall, has to withstand an entire monsoon. Hitu Panchkale, a commuter, told mid-day, “The authorities have started the potholes repair work, but I don’t think this temporary fix will last long. This entire patch work will get washed away in the rain. The contractor and NHAI officials responsible for this shoddy work should be punished.”

Another motorist Anand Patil said, “More than 50,000 vehicles cross this arterial road of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway daily. The current situation begs the question of what will happen to this poorly built bridge in the future, with multi-axle vehicles and heavy trucks plying on it daily. The condition will only get worse. This road is a classic example of corruption that is rampant in road construction.”

Close if needed

Former corporator and Congress leader Brian Miranda said, “I was astonished to see the newly constructed bridge develop cracks. Besides, the steel and iron have been exposed, making the bridge even more dangerous.”

The fixed potholes on Vasai Creek bridge, on Thursday

Miranda, who inspected the bridge on Thursday while the repair work was underway, said, “There was a traffic jam while potholes were being fixed and it lasted for almost an hour, with heavy vehicles, cement mixers and tankers all on the bridge. It made me wonder how this suspended bridge could take the load of so many heavy vehicles in this condition.

“I feel a thorough inspection is needed to investigate the sustainability and stability of the bridge. If need be, the bridge should be closed until it’s totally safe for use,” he added. In a tweet earlier in the day, he said, “What is the future of this substandard bridge? UIts use needs to be stopped before it collapses.”

Expert Speak

A road engineer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “Occurrence of potholes and uneven road surface on the newly built Vasai Creek bridge after a few spells of rain indicates that the asphalt layer on the road is thinner than the mandatory standard. Chances of compromise in the quality of material cannot be ruled out. When it rains and water accumulates on the road surface, water enters the asphalt and results in potholes, which is a likely possibility at the Vasai Creek bridge. An investigation must be carried out.”

The bridge developed potholes over the past few days, following the arrival of rains, alleged commuters. The extent of damage to the bridge from just one rainfall can be justified only if inferior quality material was used in the construction, they had said. Contractor Vijay M Mistry Construction Pvt Ltd did not respond to mid-day’s request for comment.


Courtesy/Source: Mid-Day / PTI