Under construction since 2016: Why Nerekadavu-Makkekadavu bridge over Vembanad is still unfinished

Nerekadavu-Makkekadavu bridge over the Vembanad Lake. Photo: Special arrangement

Alappuzha: No major engineering feat was required to complete this 800-metre-long bridge within its original deadline of 18 months. But political indecision and inter-departmental issues left it stranded mid-waters for years.

The Public Works Department (PWD) is all set to resume the construction of Nerekadavu-Makkekadavu bridge over the Vembanad Lake – a crucial link in the proposed Thuravoor-Pampa road, after a delay of several years. As the stalled construction work resumes, authorities are confused about the budget allowed for the project that would have originally cost Rs 99 crore. The bridge construction, which began in 2016, ran into hurdles one after the other before eventually coming to a halt midway.

Confirming the latest development, a PWD official said the Finance department approved the revised estimate, and a proposal was already sent for an immediate allocation of funds to resume work. While the government is learned to have revised the budget by an additional Rs 25 crore, the contractor is demanding at least Rs 40 crore over the original outlay to complete the construction, official sources said.

“Nearly 45 percent of the project work is pending to be executed. We’re confident of completing the same within a year if the fund is allocated,” said an Assistant Engineer in charge of the project.

The project had initially run into trouble over the delay in acquiring land for constructing approach roads on both sides of the bridge. Though the issue was resolved last year through an intervention of the High Court, the project contractor insisted on revising the cost estimates before resuming the work. The project had been awarded based on the Delhi Schedule of Rates 2012.

Selfie 'challenge'
Meanwhile, the uncertainty has set off a storm of sarcastic memes on social media, especially in the backdrop of the upcoming Navakerala Sadas events by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Alappuzha.

Using the screenshots of an earlier Facebook post by the Vaikom legislator C K Asha, who had promised to complete the project in just two years, the meme creaters have launched a “challenge” for the public to take a selfie by standing on the bridge.

Although Finance Minister K N Balagopal, who visited the bridge construction site in November last year, had promised to expedite the approval for the revised estimates, nothing materialized. Later in August this year, Public Works Minister P A Mohamed Riyas convened a high-level meeting and entrusted the Public Works and Finance department secretaries to look into the matter.

Nerekadavu-Makkekadavu bridge over the Vembanad Lake, Memes about the under construction bridge.

Connecting Alappuzha and Kottayam

The 800-metre-long bridge will open a new route between Alappuzha and Kottayam districts once completed. It comes up on a set of 22 spans, with two navigation spans in the middle. The bridge will have footpaths on both sides with a width of 1.5 metres. The approach roads will have a length of 60 metres each.

Besides connecting the NH 47 with the State Highway 15 near Udayanapuram and then to the Sabarimala route, the bridge will also pave the way for establishing a new pilgrimage circuit involving the temples at Thuravoor, Vaikom, Kaduthuruthy, Ettumanoor, and Erumely.

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