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RELATED KEYWORDS: Nhai|Mahatma-Gandhi-Setu|Gandhi-Setu|An-Engineering-Marvel
Gandhi Setu: An engineering marvel
Madhuri Kumar, TNN | Jun 11, 2012, 05.58AM IST
Asia's longest river bridge, Mahatma Gandhi Setu, popularly known as the Gandhi or
Ganga Setu, is a marvel of both engineering design and technology. Inaugurated by the
then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1982, the 5.75km-long bridge became the lifeline
of north Bihar.

Touted as a true engineering marvel, a miracle of equilibrium and graceful in
appearance, it was constructed by Gammon India with an expenditure of Rs 87.22 crore.
The river bridge has 45 intermediate spans of 121.065 metres each and one span of
65.530 metres on both sides. The technology used in the bridge was prestressing
cantilever slabs with hinge bearings and box girder.

It took over a decade to construct this wonderful feat of engineering genius. Though the
project was sanctioned in 1969 by the Central government, construction work could
begin in 1972.
In fact, before the inauguration of the Setu, north Bihar-bound people from Patna had to
negotiate the Ganga either using a boat, a ship or a steamer. The only other option was
taking a long and tiring rail route. So the basic purpose of the Setu was to cut short the
travelling time from the state capital to north Bihar.

The view of river Ganga flowing down majestically below is simply breathtaking.
Hundreds of pedestrians and over 40,000 vehicles ply every day across the longest
cantilever bridge of Asia. Since its inauguration in 1982, the Gandhi Setu has been the
passage of myriad activities. While brisk business is carried on at the one end of the
bridge in the capital town itself, the same is happening in the various districts and towns
of north Bihar. Both the markets together provide livelihood for over 1,00,000 people.
Besides, thousands of people visit these markets from far off places every day. All
acknowledge the role of this towering bridge in their business and daily life, creating a
bond between two generations.

However, the Setu is now stressed beyond limit under the weight of heavy vehicles
constantly plying over it from Patna and North Bihar and threatening its existence.

Two pillars of the bridge developed cracks four years ago, only 26 years after it was
inaugurated. It wasn't supposed to, considering that it was flaunted as an engineering
marvel that would serve people for at least a century.

Poor maintenance, coupled with wear and tear caused by the unprecedented surge in
traffic, has made the structure vulnerable. If a larger crack develops, it will sever the
lifeline between the state capital and north Bihar.

"For us the Setu is our lifeline. If there is further damage, the entire communication
network with north Bihar will be paralysed," said principal secretary, road construction
department, Pratyay Amrit.

Investigations into the fissures revealed hammering at the hinges when vehicles plied;
finger-type expansion joints in an advanced state of distress; wearing coat cracks;
spilling of concrete at transverse joints; longitudinal cracks in precast segments; leakage
of water inside the box girder from joints between segments and from holes provided for
lifting the segments.

"Other bridges across the country built with the same design in cantilever technology but
with slight variations have also developed cracks. The Mandovi river bridge in Goa, built
with the same technology, collapsed 16 years into its commissioning while two other
bridges on Zuari and Borim rivers, also in Goa, have developed problems and have been
closed for heavy traffic," said NHAI sources.

The inherent fault of the pre-stressed technology notwithstanding, the increased load of
traffic estimated at 40,000 vehicles per day has also damaged its piers.

"The Mahatma Gandhi Setu is now RCD's topmost priority. The NHAI was given the task
of preparing a report for improving its condition through competitive bidding. It roped
in the services of Mumbai-based SN Bhobe & Associates as a consultant for conducting a
detailed study for undertaking renovation work of the Setu and finding out the feasibility
of constructing a new bridge," said Amrit.

"The consultant had suggested to demolish the railings and footpath, which the state
government rejected for security reasons as it would lead to more accidents. However,
secretary, ministry of road transport and highways (North) A K Upadhayay, is really
concerned about the bridge and at least six meetings have been already taken place to
discuss the issue. This time we hope something positive will definitely happen," said the
RCD secretary.

"But our biggest concern is span number 44 on the western lane, which is very badly
damaged and is literary drooping. SN Bhobe & Associates is scheduled to submit its
report to the NHAI on this spam also regarding its repair or replacement," RCD
executive engineer Mahesh Prasad said.

However, Bhobe & Associates has suggested some short-term measures for immediate
repair of the bridge, for which an estimate of Rs 29 crore has been prepared.

It may be mentioned here that road construction minister Nand Kishore Yadav had
informed the Bihar Legislative Council in its last session that the ministry of surface
transport and highways (MOSH) had transferred the stretch from 207.2km to 222km on
NH-19, which includes Mahatma Gandhi Setu, to the NHAI through a gazette
notification on September 28, 2011.

The inspection of the river bridge was in progress. Soon after the submission of the
detailed project report (DPR), the NHAI would invite tender for the renovation and
maintenance of the bridge.

"However, repair work of upstream extension joints and wearing coat of the bridge
which is being redone with mastic asphalt and bituminous concrete is nearing
completion. This is being done to make riding smooth and reduce load," said Prasad.

"The RCD has also requested the central government to stop toll collection on the bridge
as long queues of heavy vehicles waiting for their turn to pay tax only increases the static
load on the bridge. However, the ministry is yet to respond to our request," said the RCD
secretary.

Considering the significant role the Ganga Setu has been playing for decades in people's
lives in this region, it is unimaginable to think of Patna skyline without Mahatma Gandhi
Setu.
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Reader's opinions
Rajesh kumar jha (Patna)
It is a engineering marvel. Its present condition is only due to immense load it had to endure during its
life span. However it is high time that state Givernment to start thinking about new bridge.
Ravish (Noida)
30 Years span is too short to say it a engineering Marvel. It wasn't designed with a vision of future. It has
developed cracks means there is no check on load or declared load capacity is false. A bridge of such
magnitude should be designed for at least 100 year span. Anyways we couldn't have asked more than this 30
years back as we were lacking required resources. One of the engineering marvel is 70 years old Howrah bridge.
Aditya akash (Patna)
Its about time that the state make a new bridge. I know that there will a hundred people saying against
me, but that doesn't change the fact that when the bridge goes, the bridge goes.
Osu Mohammad (Saudi Arabia) replies to Rajesh kumar jha
You cannot say marvel, just imagine about Howrah bridge (compare the life of Howra brige and Ganga
Setu).
Imran (Vill: Arha, Via: Pakribarawan, Dist: Nawadah)replies to Aditya akash
The state government has already submitted request to Centre for approval to construct a new Setu
parallel to Gandhi Setu. Let us see when Centre approves. The centre will be fully responsible, if Bridge
collapse and lives & properties damages. The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways are sitting on various
proposal submitted by RCD and BSRDC. Let us pressurize centre and Manmohan Singh to approve Bihar's
request URGENTLY.
Osu Mohammad (Saudi Arabia) replies to Imran
actually what ever daily collection through moterized vehicle at the end of Hajipur toll tower, if you
calculate honestly,Iam sure every year State Goverment make same like a new Ganga Setu no need to
depend on central goverment. Even though it is my Special request to Mr. Nitish Kumar (CM) to give more
pressure on Mr. Manmohan Sing (PM) to take care for this bridge , no body knows when this bridge will be
collaps because bridge condition is very dangerous.
bihari (patna) replies to Imran
The amout invested in repairing the bridge is far more than creating a new bridge.Maintance is going on
from more that 10 yers

Read All Comments
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