Irang : A bridge not too far
There are few important bridges en-route Imphal-Jiribam on NH 37 (erstwhile NH 53); some are Irang, Makru, Barak and others.
A few days back Irang bailey bridge unfortunately collapsed and one truck had fallen into the river. The transportation and commercial link between Imphal and Jiribam has been virtually cut-off . Alternative existing routes are not viable for heavy vehicles.
The only way to restore commercial link (along NH 37) between Assam and Manipur is to reconstruct or repair the Irang bridge. The oldest Irang bailey bridge was constructed by the Britishers and it lasted nearly hundred years with some repairs here and there. It was perhaps replaced by us in 2005. Now it is only 15 years old ; a young teenage bailey bridge. The British iron and steel were perhaps much stronger and long lasting. The quality of iron and steel in post independence India has deteriorated. I may be wrong, but something is wrong somewhere.
Dr RK Ranjan MP , Lok Sabha who is an active serving political leader of the State went straight to the Irang bridge site to assess the situation. He met the National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) officials who are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the bridge. They assured him that the bailey bridge will be repaired within a few days perhaps before Jivanita/Deepawali/Diwali. Dr Ranjan also insisted that the reconstruction work must be completed at the earliest and urged the concerned Engineers to work fast to complete the work on war footing.
Within a few days our Forest Minister A Newmai went to the site and inspected the progress of the work. He was also given the assurance by the officials of National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. that the bridge will be restored by 14 November 2020.
We heard that the bridge collapsed again while undergoing reinstallation of new equipment and hardware. If it was so , this will further delay the reconstruction and restoration work of this crucial bridge. We also come to know that the concerned Engineers and workers are working hard day and night to complete the job. From a reliable source it is now learnt that its repairing and restoration may take a few days more. Anyways let's hope it is restored at the earliest. In addition some precautions must also be taken to withstand the overloaded trucks.
The truckers, transporters and drivers are requested to adhere to the prescribed norms. If the prescribed load is 24 tonnes let's follow it. In the name of doing some extra good business we are destroying our lifeline. We all know that the route is precarious and fragile. If we don't take care, who will ? Many stretches and bridges on the highway are highly unsafe. So we must take utmost care.
It is good news that Hon. CM has taken up the matter with the Union Minister of Roads and Highways Shri Nitinji. He has requested Nitinji that the Irang bailey bridge be converted to an RCC bridge like Makru and Barak. Let's hope it works. Then we may have a pucca Irang Bridge. Another important information is that the construction of Makru and Barak bridges will be completed by December this year. Hon. CM has made it clear on Facebook. However another important Minister maintained that by March both the newly constructed bridges will start functioning. Whatever it may be the new bridges must be opened as early as possible without compromising the quality of work.
In the early 80s I saw a movie called "A Bridge Too Far ". It was based on a true Second World War episode . In fact it was a plan of British and American forces to win the war at Arnhem (Netherlands), an important bridge for the movement of German and allied forces . The operation was called "Operation Market Garden ". The operation failed due to many reasons including lack of coordination . They could not even reach the bridge, forget about its control.
We are facing a similar frustrating situation; we don't have a viable alternative route along the line and at the same time we are still unable to make the route comfortable and safe. Irang bridge is one such bridge on the way where we hardly can do anything. The power , money and authority lies somewhere and work is to be executed in a difficult terrain .
One must recall that this was an important road connecting Bangladesh and Burma. We must try our level best to improve, expand and renovate this medieval route to a modern international highway. Let us understand the importance of this route : in fact it can be a futuristic route for us to connect both east and west.
"Irang will be opened in a day or two", but our dream of an international highway from this side too must also begin now ( road network is already in place). Start dreaming.