Sharmili Mallick

Even as the Odisha government promises big on achieving last-mile connectivity, many bridge projects in the remote regions of the State are lying incomplete over the past few years.

As per reports, some bridge projects conceived in Rayagada district and Bhanjanagar of Ganjam district with an aim to improve communication, health and other services in these regions now stare at an uncertain future.

Locals of these regions are facing lot of hardships in the absence of bridges and continue to wade through flooded rivers in rainy season or be it walking on hot sand in summer for their day-to-day life. Residents have pointed fingers towards callous attitude of the concerned district offices, lack of political will, percentage culture as well as conflict between ruling party and opposition leaders as some of the possible reasons behind the inordinate delay in the completion of the bridge projects.

People who are settled in the villages along the Nagavali River in Rayagada district on the Andhra-Odisha border cross the river on foot while some take the help of bullock cart to reach the other side of the stream for their daily needs, including school, market and other activities.

Though a bridge was proposed over the Nagavali River with an expenditure of Rs 12.51 crore for which the construction work was even taken up three years back. However, the project is at halfway stage. The district administration has meanwhile admitted delay in the construction of the bridge and said the work has been halted presently in view of rainy season. After the rain subsides, the construction will be resumed and steps will be taken to complete the bridge soon, assured the district collector. “We are facing innumerable hardships in absence of a bridge on the river. We have to cross the river on foot daily even for a small work,” said Mahesh Kalka, a resident of Khilimisiguda village under Seskhal block of Rayagada district.

S.Ram Naidu, the former sarpanch of Kereda panchayat under Rayagada block said, “It’s been over 25-30 years, a bridge is yet to materialise on the river. The situation becomes worse during rainy season due to which pregnant women and patients suffer a lot to get medical care,” Naidu added. Rayagada District Collector, Saroj Kumar Mishra however said “The work of the bridge was halted for some reasons but after the rainy season is over, the construction will resume. We expect the bridge will be built by March next year.”

Similarly, locals have been reeling under neglect due to the under construction bridge over Boda River near Bellaguntha under Jagannath Prasad block of Ganjam district. In 2018, the Works Department initiated a bridge over the river with a budget of Rs 12.51 crore and structure was supposed to be built within one and a half years. But it’s been over four years, the construction of the bridge has remained unfinished.

“Two people have lost their lives in mishap on the temporary road and as the route connects Berhampur, Bhanjanagar and several other key locations, the road remains busy most of the times. Therefore, the concerned authorities should take immediate steps to complete the bridge,” said a local resident, Gurunath Sahu.

“There was an old iron bridge built during British rule over the river and it was razed for the construction of a new bridge. They did not even arrange an alternative way for which we facing problems in communication on the route,” alleged Rabindra Kumar Dakua, another local. OTV tried to get the response of the Assistant Engineer of the Jagannath Prasad Section at Belaguntha, however the concerned officials were not available for comments into the allegations.