Locals Suspect Illegal Sand Mining Caused the 52-year-old Maravoor Bridge to Crack
Mangaluru: There could be many reasons for the Maravoor bridge to develop a crack due to heavy rain that lashed on the night of Monday, and the crack was noticed by a taxi driver during the wee hours of Tuesday at 2.30 am. Among the many reasons that might have caused the bridge to crack, one main reason is the illegal sand mining below the bridge, say many residents. As of now the vital direct road connectivity between Mangaluru city and Mangaluru International Airport has been cut off after the foundation of one of the pillars of the major bridge built across the Phalguni river. According to Yashwant Kumar, the Executive Engineer, Mangaluru Division of the Public Works Department the foundation has sunk by about 2-3 feet. Locals suspect that the sand mining that is going on below the bridge in the Gurpur river might have led to the crack.
Meanwhile, Dakshina Kannada District in-Charge Minister Kota Srinivas Poojary has said, “A committee of experts will consider all the aspects and submit a report within two days as to whether the damaged Maravoor bridge has to be reconstructed or repair works will suffice. The bridge, which suffered a depression would be dealt with as per the advice of the experts and the grant needed for the same would be released by taking up the matter with the chief minister. A sum of Rs 50 crore has been sanctioned to develop the bridge into a four-lane road and that a new bridge is already under construction by the side of the current bridge. The officials have been instructed to speed up the work and see that it is completed by February 2022. It has been decided to repair the old bridge after the new bridge is built, as otherwise, traffic on this stretch would have to be barred for three months pending repairs. Now that the bridge is damaged, an expert committee will decide the future course”.
This 300 meters long 52-year-old bridge which was built in 1969 on the State Highway No 67 (Mangaluru -Athrady) provided the shortest and direct road connectivity from the City to Bajpe, including the Airport, and Kateel. It is learnt that the chances of the bridge piling and pillar construction works damaging the foundation of the existing bridge are less, say the Engineers. A two-member expert team from Bengaluru will examine the bridge and guide on the restoration, it is learnt. This is the second bridge in the district to collapse within a span of three years. In 2018 the Mularpatna bridge in Bantwal which connects Mangaluru with Sornadu had collapsed. It is said that the illegal sand mining that is going on below the bridge is the reason for this mishap. In 2018, the Mularpatna bridge also collapsed for the same reason as the relentless excavation of sand was going on near the pillars of the bridge, which made them weak and led to the collapse.
Police commissioner N Shashi Kumar, who visited the spot yesterday speaking to the media said, “It should be noted that two pillars of Maravoor bridge connecting the City and MIA across the Phalguni river have collapsed. Due to this, the bridge is non-motorable, as well as pedestrian movement. Commuters travelling from Udupi to MIA should take the Udupi-Mulky- Kinnigoli-Kateel-Bajpe route, while people coming from Kasargod via Mangaluru city should take the Nanthoor-Vamanjoor-Gurupur-Kaikamba-Bajpe route. Those who want to go to the other side of the Marvoor bridge from Kavoor can either use Kavoor-Kulur-KBS Jokatte-Porkody-Bajpe route or Pacchanady-Vamanjoor-Gurpur-Kaikamba-Bajpe route. Very soon the officials from the concerned department will visit the spot and make the necessary decisions. Until the experts give their opinion on the bridge’s safety, it will not be reopened for traffic. Until the bridge is safe to use, people should cooperate as vehicular movement is completely restricted on the bridge.”
It is learnt that a car driver who drove across the Maravoor bridge from the City at about 2.30 am noticed the damage and informed the police control room. Immediately the police who rushed to the spot closed the bridge. It is learnt that the bridge had been constructed by Vijayawada based firm Nagabhushanam and Company Engineers and Contractors. The granite masonry bridge with RCC piers has nine spans and each span is 21 meters in width. The width of the carriageway (road part) is 7.5 meters.
Sources also reveal that on 13 May 2021, the National Highway division of the PWD had inspected the bridge, when experts from the PWD’s Planning and Road Asset Management Centre (PRAMC) used bridge inspection vehicles to check all the piers and abutments. The PRAMC team had noticed displacement of the girder in pier No 2, sources in the PWD have revealed, stating that another inspection had been scheduled in a few days before which the damage had occurred. Before the inspection by the PRAMC team, a professor of the Civil Engineering Department at the NITK-Surathkal had inspected the same bridge for its strength.