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Omchhu bridge in danger of collapsing

The bridge is a vital connecting link for both pedestrians and vehicles in Phuentsholing

The Omchhu bridge in Phuentsholing connects important institutions and business entities and half of Phuentsholing’s population resides across the bridge which makes the bridge a vital connecting link.

The bridge which was completed in 2003 most importantly connects with the General Hospital and public transport office, and Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA). Also, a vegetable market is located across the river. However, the bridge is in danger of collapsing as hundreds of heavy and light vehicles ply through the road daily to get across. More than 50 heavy trucks ply through the bridge daily. While the carrying capacity of the bridge is just 40MT, the Truckers Committee has confirmed that the gross weight of a single loaded truck of 18 wheelers crosses 40MT. A truck alone weighs more than 13T and can carry up to 37MT at once.

The bridge after its inauguration has helped people to get across both the sides in the commercial hub of the country. “The bridge has been very important for everyone from the common man to the elite. Without it, the entire people on the left bank of the river will suffer especially during monsoon,” said Sangay Wangchuk, a Phuentsholing resident. The bridge is also used to transport mandarin during winter from Amochhu depots.

Additionally, the bridge is used for transporting boulders from Amochhu bridge to Bangladesh.

However, since the bridge is stretched to its capacity these days, the concerned authorities have restricted the movement of heavy vehicles especially trucks carrying boulder starting this month.

Without an alternative route, the bridge is the only lifeline for both transporters and pedestrians. Repercussions will be huge if something happens to the bridge, said an RSTA official. “There will be the issue of accountability.”

Now, RSTA plans to penalize the employers instead of transporters for any mishap in the town.

Sharing the concern about the bridge, Truckers Committee Members of Bhutan has proposed for an alternative route across the Omchhu river to the authorities but they have not received a response so far.

The committee has proposed for a culvert over the river for the heavy trucks to ply to avoid any mishap to the bridge and traffic congestion. “We understand the concern for the bridge. But without any alternative we are compelled to use that bridge,” said Committee Chairman DB Tamang. He said that heavy trucks will avoid the bridge if an alternative route is opened.

Meanwhile, Phuentsholing Thromde is aware about the concern but said in absence of an alternative route, nothing can be done at the moment. With two new bridges in the pipeline, the issue is expected to ease. One bridge at the confluence of Amochhu and Omchhu and another flyover bridge connecting at the first turning above Royal Bhutan Army camp are expected to be complete by 2019. Then the traffic congestion will ease as all heavy vehicles will be routed through those bridges, according to a Thromde official.

The Thromde official also said that the vibration of the bridge during heavy traffic signifies good health of the bridge as rollers are installed during construction. “We have to worry if the bridge stops vibrating. But when the bridge vibrates during vehicular movement, it is a sign of a healthy bridge and we need not panic.”

Until the two new bridges are open for traffic, the Thromde views monitoring the traffic flow on the bridge as the best option, allowing a single vehicle at a time. “Also, installing a sign board would serve the purpose,” he said.

Omchhu bridge also connects the people of Phuentsholing and Logchina gewogs with the town. Most boleros carrying people ply through the bridge.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing