Illegal mining near Sutlej bridge weakens base

One of the piers has shifted by 1 ft, another by a few inches | Officer claims structure is safe

Illegal mining near Sutlej bridge weakens base

Arun Sharma
Tribune News Service
Anandpur Sahib, March 13

A km-long Agampur bridge on the Sutlej river near here is on the verge of collapse, courtesy the mining mafia. With officials “failing” to stop illegal mining near the bridge for years, one of its piers has shifted by one ft and another by a few inches.

The bridge was constructed at a cost of Rs70 crore.

When a team of The Tribune visited the spot on Friday, it was noticed that vehicles crossing the bridge produced vibrations, which indicated the foundation has become weak.

The unabated illegal mining near the bridge lowered the riverbed, leading to increased flow of riverwater which washed away sand around the piers (the main support of the bridge upon which the structure rests). Some of piers have been exposed by more than 15 ft.

The Tribune has been highlighting the matter since May 2016. Still the authorities dragged their feet in taking action against the mining mafia.

The then DC Karnesh Sharma, along with officials from Public Works Department (PWD) and mining officials, had visited the spot after The Tribune had highlighted the matter on May 24, 2016. That time, it was found that sand around six out of 32 piers was removed. He had issued directions to police and mining officials to step up patrolling in the area and erect a fence at a distance of 500 m on both sides of the bridge. Nothing has been done to date.

Even last month, a team of senior officials from, mining and pollution departments and PWD visited the spot. They were surprised to see the condition of the bridge

As per rules, mining is not allowed up to 500 m on both sides of the bridge.

Sources say some influential person directed officials to downplay the matter as their adverse remarks would prove the presence of mining mafia in the district. They also say the report doesn’t mention illegal mining near the bridge.

Vikas Pratap Singh, Principal Secretary, PWD, said: “A committee was formed to look into the matter. Its members visited the spot two weeks ago and submitted a report later. The report has been sent to the Mining Department with comments that in case the mining continues near the bridge, the stability of the bridge will be compromised. As of now, the bridge is apparently and theoretically safe.”

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