Bihar Bridge Collapse: A Warning Signal for Infrastructure Safety
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Bihar Bridge Collapse: A Warning Signal for Infrastructure Safety

MOHAN KHOUND

Bihar Bridge Collapse: A Warning Signal for Infrastructure Safety
Representative image of Powershift

In a disturbing turn of events, Bihar, a state in eastern India, has witnessed yet another bridge collapse, marking the 13th such incident in just three weeks. This alarming frequency of infrastructure failures has raised serious concerns about the quality of construction, maintenance practices and overall safety of public infrastructure in the region.

Background and context

Bihar, with its vast network of rivers and waterways, is heavily dependent on bridges for connectivity and transportation. The recent spate of bridge collapses has exposed significant gaps in the state’s infrastructure. The latest incident occurred on July 10, 2024, in Mahishi village in Saharsa district, where a bridge collapsed without causing any injuries or loss of life. This incident, along with 12 others in the past three weeks, underscores the critical need for a thorough assessment of the state’s infrastructure.

Possible causes of collapse

Several factors, including poor quality construction, poor maintenance, environmental factors and overloading, may be responsible for the frequent bridge collapses in Bihar. Numerous reports suggest the use of substandard materials in the construction of bridges. Corruption and lack of supervision often lead to compromises in quality, resulting in weak structures prone to failure.

Many bridges in Bihar suffer from a lack of regular maintenance. Neglect over time can lead to structural weakness and eventual collapse, as evidenced by recent incidents.

Bihar is prone to heavy monsoons and floods, which can weaken bridge foundations. Climate change has exacerbated these conditions, leading to more frequent and extreme weather events that affect the stability of infrastructure. In addition, many bridges are subjected to loads that far exceed their designed capacity. This overloading causes significant stress on the structure, leading to failure.

Another bridge collapses in Bihar, 13th such accident in three weeks
Representative image: Powershift

Case Studies and Examples

To understand the gravity of the situation, it is important to look at specific incidents:

The recent Gandak River bridge collapse involved a newly constructed bridge. Initial investigations indicate that poor construction quality and inadequate foundations were the main causes. Earlier this month, a bridge over the Bagmati River collapsed, causing several deaths. Eyewitnesses reported visible cracks and signs of damage on the bridge days before the incident, indicating a failure to respond to early warning signals.

A bridge over the Kosi River, known for its turbulent waters, collapsed last week. Experts say the bridge’s design did not take into account the river’s dynamic flow patterns, indicating a design flaw.

Another bridge collapses in Bihar, India, the 13th such accident in three weeks
Representative image: Powershift

Statistics and data

The latest figures underscore the seriousness of the problem. According to the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority, 13 bridges have collapsed in the past three weeks. A report by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Patna found that more than 60% of Bihar’s bridges are in urgent need of repair. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has declared 45 bridges in Bihar as “high risk” due to structural defects.

Government response and public outrage

The state government has come under intense scrutiny following the incidents. In response, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered a comprehensive audit of all bridges in Bihar. A special task force has also been set up to investigate the causes of the collapses and recommend corrective measures. The Bihar government has so far suspended at least 15 engineers in connection with the series of recent incidents.

Public outrage was significant, with citizens demanding accountability and transparency in the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure. Social media platforms were flooded with calls for stricter regulation and better oversight to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Bihar1
Bihar Bridge; Image-MSN

The way forward: ensuring infrastructure security

The frequent bridge collapses in Bihar are a stark reminder of the critical need for sound infrastructure management. Addressing this problem requires a multi-faceted approach. Strict adherence to quality standards and use of high-quality materials must be enforced during construction.

Independent audits and real-time monitoring can help ensure compliance. Establishing a rigorous maintenance schedule for all bridges, including regular inspections and timely repairs, is critical. Allocating sufficient funds and resources for maintenance can prevent minor issues from escalating into catastrophic failures.

Considering environmental factors in bridge design and construction is essential. This includes considering the impact of climate change and implementing measures to protect bridges from flooding and erosion. Implementing strict load limits and monitoring compliance can prevent overloading. Using technology such as weight sensors and monitoring systems can help effectively enforce these limits.

The spate of bridge collapses in Bihar underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive overhaul of infrastructure policies and practices. The state government must act quickly to restore public confidence and ensure the safety of its citizens. By adopting a proactive approach to infrastructure management, including rigorous quality control, regular maintenance and environmental mitigation, Bihar can prevent such catastrophic failures in the future.

Recent events serve as a wake-up call, underlining the importance of solid and reliable infrastructure for the safety and well-being of society.

Bihar Bridge Collapse: A Warning Signal for Infrastructure Safety

10-07-2024

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