The Meghalaya High Court recently noted that both the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the Border Roads Organization (BRO) agree that the existing Umiam Bridge should be replaced by a more robust construction that will be able to bear regular traffic.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the High Court of Meghalaya Bar Association concerning Umiam Bridge, which is presently in a dilapidated and dangerous condition and could collapse at any moment. The Umiam Bridge came into existence sometime in the early 1960s and is the lifeline of Shillong. Its load bearing capacity – at that point of time – was around 40 metric tonnes. The load the bridge is now burdened with is far beyond its initial capacity of 40 metric tonnes.
In its affidavit, the BRO said vehicles bearing a total weight in excess of 10 MT should not be allowed on the bridge. There is no doubt that implicit in such a suggestion is that the existing bridge may not be able to bear the present traffic load.
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“This is a situation which cries out for a stitch in time so that Shillong is not cut off for the want of a bridge over a reservoir,” the Bench observed.
Therefore, the Court directed that the State must make every endeavor to ensure that a replacement is planned and the work commences without waiting for the existing bridge to collapse and the State must also immediately regulate the flow of traffic along the bridge to ensure that not only the vehicles weighing more than 10 MT are not allowed on the bridge, but also to see that two heavy vehicles do not use the bridge at the same time to cause any further damage thereto. Measures should be taken so that the traffic is regulated at either end and the flow is not disrupted, yet not too many vehicles use the bridge at the same time, particularly keeping in mind the total weight spread over the bridge.
“The State may approach the Union for release of appropriate funds since the matter pertains to the shortest access to the State capital”
-the Court ordered.
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The matter has been listed on June 1, 2022 for further hearing.