The longest bridge in Northern India, considered as very vital as per defence point of view, being constructed over river Chenab In Pargwal area of Khour Sub Division in Akhnoor Sector with the estimated cost of Rs 206 crore under Central Road Fund (CRF), will be ready by September 2021 as the private company associated with this prestigious project is quite hopeful to meet the given deadline by the State R&B Department.
With the completion and commissioning of this 1640 mtrs concrete double- lane bridge, over 40 villages and nearly three dozens of hamlets of Pargwal area which is exposed to frequent Pakistani firing from two sides and one side from river Chenab, will have direct connectivity to the Khour Sub Divisional headquarters. The people of this area were struggling for the last over three decades for the construction of this bridge. Their dream is coming true shortly.
Some times, Army authorities raise Pantoon bridge in this area over Chenab for the vital movement and during the times of crisis. But during floods this bridge used to be lifted by the Army authorities. Over 35000 population of Pargwal area is facing lot of hardships because the people from here for any petty work at Tehsil and Sub Divisional Headquarters, Khour have to travel via Suyya No. 1, Akhnoor and Jourian to reach Khour after covering a long distance of over 45 kms.
But if this bridge is completed, the people will reach Khour Tehsil headquarters within 10 minutes after covering just 6-7 kms of distance. Jourian and Pallanwalla will also be closer to Pargwal area after opening of this new route. Security forces will have easy movement on both sides of river Chenab. Moreover during Pakistani firing the people of Pargwal get trapped inside their houses as the border is closer to majority of the villages. They will now have new outlet for them.
The only road at present, which is called as ‘lifeline’ of the people of this ‘strategically disadvantageous’ area of Pargwal, surrounded by Pakistan border from two sides and one side from river Chenab, is hardly 50 to 100 meters away from Indo-Pak border at several points. The road is exposed to direct Pak firing at several places and therefore, the Defence and Police authorities close the movement of vehicles on this road when the Pakistani shelling starts.
Official sources said that design of the bridge has been prepared by the Bangalore based firm. There will be 40 piers of this double- lane 12 mts wider, having 1.5 mt foot paths on both sides. The total height of the pier will be 38 ft while 26 ft will remain in the river bed. Each span will have 42 mts length. Six piers from P-11 to 16 remained under river water during these two rainy months. It affected the pace of work. Funds to the tune of Rs 25 crore have been provided to the company for works so far. The flow of funds from Government side is not so satisfactory, it may affect pace of work. There is need of intervention in this regard at the higher level on this important bridge project, sources said.
This bridge remained in crisis for long as earlier the site was shifted twice due to objections by Defence authorities and soil problem and there after JKPCC could not even finalise tenders for two and half years. The R&B took control of this project from JKPCC due to utter failure on their part. Now, the work is said to be going on smoothly after the allotment to the Chandigarh based company through e-tenders.
Executive Engineer R&B Division No. III, Jammu , Vikramjeet Singh, who is associated with the project when contacted told the Excelsior that work on this project had started in Sept 2018. The joint venture of VKG & Associates and M/s MBZ have been entrusted with the task of project. The work on 18 piers including two embankments, out of total 40, has been launched. The work is going on smoothly. During rainy season the speed of work was little affected but it will be picked up again. He said this is CRF project and there is no problem of funds.
Replying to another question, the Executive Engineer said 36 months time frame has been given to the contractors/ agency. Nearly, one year has passed. The pace of work is satisfactory. And if it continued with the same pace, it will be completed within the given deadline which is Sept 2021. The bridge contract worth Rs 120 cores has been allotted to the joint venture. There will be 4 kms and 500 mtrs of approach roads on both sides. The road will also be upgraded or widened at several points. The remaining amount of the project would be spend on the allied works, Singh said.
Unfortunately, this prestigious Jammu centric project was facing rough weather from very beginning at the hands of the people at the helm of affairs, despite the fact that entire funding worth Rs 206. 90 crore was being made by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways under CRF.
Sources revealed that Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways sanctioned the this bridge project over Chenab on January 18, 2016. The work was authorised by the State R&B department to the JKPCC, which itself is contracting agency with no infrastructure, on April 16, 2016. As the CRF guidelines, national e-tender was issued on 25-7-2016 and last date of submission of bid was October 26, 2016. The technical bid was opened on November 11, 2016. In between a writ petition was filed in the court by a local company after the tender process was completed. However, the High Court after listening both sides dismissed the petition on March 23, 2017.
The members of the Bid Committee including MD JKPCC and others, failed to finalise the contract even after court lifted the restrictions. In between the bid validity of 120 days as per e-NIT condition expired on February 22, 2017.
Three main companies, who were contesting- M/s Gammon India Ltd Mumbai, M/s SP Singla Constructions Pvt Ltd Chandigarh and M/s Arvind Techno Engineers Pvt Ltd Delhi were requested for three months extension in the bid validity. They all deposited bank guarantee worth over Rs 10 crores with the JKPCC.
Interestingly, the extended financial bid validity of (90 days) the bridge project expired on May 23, 2017, but the officials at the helm of affairs in JKPCC failed to take a decision. Again three more extensions of 30 days each were sought by the MD JKPCC and his team but they just managed to buy time and did not open the financial bid even after opening the technical bid forcing the then R&B Minister Naeem Akhtar to assign this work to R&B Department.