On Monday, when Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were making mega announcements including that of a high-speed Nagpur-Mumbai railway corridor, several villages in Gadchiroli were cut off from the district headquarter due to several big and small rivers and nullahs flowing above the bridges following heavy rains.
One of the major flood affected roads in the district, the Alapalli-Bhamragad stretch, saw bridges on Bandiya river near Tadgaon and Parlakota river near Bhamragad getting submerged bringing traffic to a standstill and also cutting off hundreds of villages from the tehsil headquarters of Alapalli and further ahead the district headquarters of Gadchiroli.
The Parlakota new bridge proposal has been hanging fire since 2006, then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Home Minister R R Patil had visited the place and announced a new bridge. The matter has been complicated due to the stretch becoming part of a proposed national highway extending from Alapalli to Narayanpur in Chattisgarh about a year and a half ago. The transfer of responsibility from state Public Works Department to National Highway Department has put the proposed new bridges across the rivers in a state of indefinite flux.
“The Parlakota bridge goes underwater even when the area receives normal rainfall. In any given season, it often goes underwater at least once every week, cutting off the tehsil town of Bhamragad and more than 35 bridges beyond it indefinitely. As it is, there is no road from
Lahiri village, about 20 kms beyond Bhamragad, upto the state border. Naturally, the people there remain marooned practically for the most part of the season,” said social activist and independent ZP member from Nelgunda-Arewada area Lalsu Nogoti.
While Bhamragad is on the eastern bank of Parlakota, the Lok Biradari Prakalp of social activists Prakash and Manda Amte is situated on the western side at Hemalkasa village. In the absence of adequate health and education facilities in the interior parts, Amtes’ school and hospital are the major centres for thousands of tribals in the area. Lack of sufficiently high bridges forces the tribals to face hardships.
State PWD (National Highway section) Superintending Engineer B D Theng said, “After declaring it as National Highway, a detailed project report (DPR) is currently being prepared. The inception and feasibility reports are ready and their scrutiny is under way. After that the DPR will go to the Ministry of Surface Transport for clearance.”
Executive Engineer Vivek Mishra said, “The Parlakota bridge will have to be replaced with a flyover which will land beyond Bhamragad to avoid the widening of the passage within the town. The DPR should ideally take about three more months for preparation and once it is sanctioned the bridge should be ready in two years.”
Similarly, 24 villages have been cut off for about 10 days due to flooding of a nullah near Kishtapur on Gimalgatta to Dechhli-Petha villages. Gadchiroli, meanwhile continues to experience heavy showers.
Interestingly, none of the proposed bridges has been opposed by Naxalites. And the government has successfully built some bridges in the highly sensitive areas with a view to penetrate the Naxal heartland.
“So, why shouldn’t the need of the people be also prioritized,” said another social activist.