PATNA, June 7 (PTI): Three days after the collapse of the four-lane Sultanganj-Aguwani Ghat Bridge in Bhagalpur, the Bihar Engineering Services Association (BESA) on Wednesday demanded a structural audit of all recently completed and under-construction bridges in the state.
The BESA, which is an association of members of the Bihar Engineering Services as well as other state government undertakings, said the audit will identify flaws, weaknesses and deficiencies, if any, in the structures of all recently completed and under-construction bridges.
The Khagaria side of the bridge collapsed on Sunday around 14 months after its Sultanganj side pillar number 5 had fallen on April 30 last year.
BESA general secretary Rakesh Kumar told PTI, “We must learn lessons from such incidents. A team of BESA members is collecting all relevant information from the ground. We will soon come out with our own report.”
“We, however, demand that the state government orders structural audit of all completed and under-construction bridges in the state,” he said.
He said the audit will identify the flaws, weaknesses and deficiencies, if any.
The exercise will also safeguard properties and human lives, besides enhancing the longevity of structures, Kumar said.
Commenting on the Bihar government’s decision to suspend the executive engineer of Khagaria division following the incident, he said, “The BESA is not questioning the government’s action… but why no action was taken against the authority engineer of the project? It is the responsibility of the contractor and the authority engineer for any lapses in execution and quality work at the site.”
“There are several questions that need to be answered,” he said, adding that the body also demands specialised training for engineers before engaging them in the construction of bridges involving modern technology and high-technology construction techniques.
The Haryana-based company, which was awarded the contract, has already been served with a show-cause notice by the Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam (BRPNN) and asked to give its reply within 15 days of the incident.
The department concerned also suspended the executive engineer for his failure to keep an eye on the quality of the work.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Canadian design and engineering firm behind the bridge, McElhanney, had said, “McElhanney is aware of the partial collapse of the Aguani-Sultanganj Ghat Bridge over Ganga River in India. We are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of all affected by this incident and will cooperate with any investigation related to this incident. While we are unable to comment on the specifics of the incident at this time, we are committed to our core values of safety and care of our communities.”
The under-construction bridge, a portion of which collapsed on Sunday, involved a cost of over Rs 1,700 crore and was supposed to be completed by 2019. The foundation stone of the structure was laid in February 2014 by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Soon after the collapse, Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav had said that the state government was anyway planning to demolish the under-construction bridge because of structural flaws.
“It may be recalled that a portion of this bridge had collapsed on April 30 last year. We had, thereafter, approached IIT-Roorkee, which is esteemed for its expertise in construction matters, to conduct a study. It is yet to come up with a final report but experts who had studied the structure had informed us that there were serious defects,” Yadav had said.
However, according to the latest data uploaded by the BRPNN on its website on May 29, the administrative approval of the project was given on November 14, 2013 by the then Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government and the project was supposed to be completed by November 2019, later rescheduled to June 30, 2023.
“Till April 2023, work related to foundation and sub-structure of the bridge had been fully completed, but only 84.3 per cent of work related to super-structure was completed till April 2023,” according to the latest BRPNN data.