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Sunday Special » Perspective

Posted at: Sep 10, 2017, 12:47 AM; last updated: Sep 10, 2017, 12:47 AM (IST)

A bridge too far: ‘Island’ remains cut off

Rachna Khaira in Kapurthala
A bridge too far: ‘Island’ remains cut off
Many children have dropped out of school as crossing the river regularly on boat is dangerous.

Rachna Khaira in Kapurthala

FOR the roughly 5,000 villagers living in the Mand area, only the pontoon bridge offers a safe passage. The bridge, however, remains open only for three months. Ajit Singh, superintending engineer (drainage department), says a bridge cannot be constructed on such a land. “Due to continuous change in the alignment of the creek every year, the approach slabs of the bridge fixed on both sides will be washed away,” says Singh. 

From the Sultanpur Lodhi side, the department has constructed a Flood Protection Bundh (FPB) 15 ft wide in Sardulpur village which is around 600 feet from the creek. One has to then cross the 400-ft-wide creek either through a boat or the pontoon bridge. After reaching the island, which is over 2 km wide, one can reach the other side of the Beas by walking another 2 km. 

While government engineers and policy-makers mull over the possibility of constructing a permanent bridge, experts think that even if the bridge were to be constructed, it should be from the FPB to the mainland, and not just on the creek. 

“For this, the budget will have to be raised by another Rs 20 crore (total Rs 30 crore) which the state government might find difficult to put aside for the 200-odd families living on the island,” says a senior official. 

The Beas flowing in the area gets water from two sources: from the Pong dam and the Chakki bank in Pathankot which contains the entire water flow of Himachal Pradesh. On the way, water flowing through various ‘choes’ including Naushera and Mirthal too adds to the flow. 

Water flowing above 50,000-cusec level is dangerous to the existence of the island. But the flow has crossed the danger mark many times. The major outflank was reported during floods in 1988 when the water crossed over 3.50 lakh cusecs. It has crossed 1.42 lakh cusecs in 1995, 1.25 lakh cusecs in 2013 and around 1 lakh cusecs in 2015. On Saturday, the water flow reported in the area was 13,500 cusecs. 

The villagers have asked the district administration to reduce the width of the 7-km-wide Beas to 1 km and flow the water through the cemented canal to Malwa region. The proposal has reportedly being turned down by the drainage department. 

Surprisingly, despite the district administration being aware of the situation, it is not taking measures to prevent the further inhabitation of the island. The farmers on both sides of the Beas have constructed huge embankments to prevent their cultivable land from getting submerged. However, the island situated in between the two banks is facing the maximum threat as the water level around it has increased in the last few years and has washed away huge chunks of land. 

Area MLA Navtej Cheema says he is aware of the technical problems in getting a bridge constructed. “I have written to the state government to look for a better solution,” he said.

“While I am making strenuous efforts to get a bridge constructed on the creek, the best solution is that the villagers should shift their families from the island and use it only for cultivation. Even though a bridge gets constructed over the creek, it will not serve any permanent solution,” says Cheema. 

About the lack of health facilities in the area, Cheema said he would take it up with the health department. 

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