Wednesday, December 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Contractor, engineers blamed
Collapse of 2 Himachal bridges

Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Dec 26 — The high-level inquiry ordered by the state government into the washing away of two vital bridges under construction at Sataun in Sirmaur district and Mangladh Khad on the national highway in Shimla district has indicted the contractor and engineers for the mishap which had caused loss to the tune of Rs 119.21 lakh.

While the Rs 1 crore Sataun bridge on the Giri river in Sirmaur collapsed due to faulty design, deviation from the approved design proved fatal for the bridge on Mangladh Khad in Kinnaur, washed away in June.

This has been revealed in the inquiry ordered by the government soon after their collapse.

Mr P.K. Dhumal, Chief Minister, in a suo motu statement today informed the Vidhan Sabha that the main finding of the inquiry was that the design of the Sataun bridge was based on faulty hydraulic data. The discharge of 456 cusec for which the bridge was designed, was a gross underestimate.

As per the information and data available on record, the discharge level was required to be calculated at 5541 cusec, about 12 times the level for which the bridge was designed. There had been negligence and the approach in obtaining proper hydraulic data which was of crucial importance for the design parameters was casual. Further, the choice of having a single span pierless bridge was not seriously considered and taken to a logical conclusion by the engineers concerned. The inquiry officer had recommended a specific departmental inquiry against officers at various levels who dealt with this project in any substantive and substantial way. No compromise regarding the quality, quantity and standard of material used in the construction of this project was noticed.

The department had already made a payment of Rs 98.52 lakh by the time the bridge was washed away in July following heavy rains.

By way of follow-up action on the above recommendations of the inquiry officer, a detailed departmental inquiry was being ordered to fix responsibility for use of faulty hydraulic data and the resultant unsound design of the bridge.

The engineer-in-chief had subsequently issued detailed guidelines for collection of hydraulic data for designing of bridges so that in future such mistakes were not be repeated.

The bridge across Mangladh Khad on National Highway-22 Rampur was envisaged in 1993 on the basis of design evolved by the rites (Rail India Technical and Economic Services). Initially, execution of this bridge was entrusted to a Chandigarh-based construction company at a cost of Rs 76.50 lakh but the firm failed to execute the contract. Subsequently, left-over work of constructing the “super-structure” was awarded to Jagdish Chand Gupta in August 1998 for Rs 88.51 lakh. Work was started in May, 2000, and the bridge under construction was washed on June 8. A sum of Rs 18.69 lakh has been released to the contractor by then.

According to the approved design, the bridge was to be constructed on “false truss shuttering”, but the contractor resorted to “crib shuttering” without the approval of the competent authority. There was considerable cost difference in the case of “false truss shuttering” and “crib shuttering”. Change in the type of shuttering was apparently made with the knowledge of the executive engineer concerned to benefit the contractor. The senior geologist of the Geological Survey of India had approved the existing site as suitable for the construction of the bridge. However, the Superintending Engineer, Ministry of Surface Transport, during his visit to the site in May this year had pointed out that “crib shuttering” erected on loose debris silt was not sage but his advice was not acted upon. Subsequently, the loose debris, silt on which crib shuttering was resting got washed away in the floods and as a result the super-structure under construction also collapsed.

He said disciplinary, proceedings against the executive engineer, assistant engineer and junior engineer concerned had been instituted. Lack of proper supervision on the part of superintending engineer and the chief engineer, if any, was also being looked into.

The contractor had been held responsible for changing the shuttering without the technical approval of the department which led to its collapse. The contractor had so far been paid Rs 18.69 lakh out of the contract amount of Rs 88.51 lakh. The loss of the work under execution was attributable to the act of the contractor and this loss would be borne by him as per the condition of the agreement.

The contractor had accepted this liability and planned to restart the work and finish it by March, 2001.

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