A makeshift bamboo bridge for two-wheelers built by local youths on the Balason river to the northwest-end of Siliguri, parallel to the main bridge under repairs, has prompted mixed reactions.
Since October 20, traffic on the bridge over Balason river came to a halt as one of its pillars tilted and a part of its concrete plank sank owing to the impact of the monsoon-fed river. Only pedestrians can cross the structure where the state PWD is installing a Bailey bridge.
As a result, thousands who travel to Siliguri from the northwest have to take a turnaround route via Asian Highway-II to reach Siliguri.
Sources said some local youths of Matigara block where the Balason bridge is located built a makeshift bridge of bamboo and iron poles. In all, 25 iron poles have been buried into the riverbed to support the 20-foot bridge.
“It took four days and Rs 60,000 to build this temporary bridge. Only two-wheelers can move through it,” said Ananta Barman, a resident of Baniakhali More of Matigara, one of the initiators.
Barman said he and a couple of his friends built the bamboo bridge after seeing the inconveniences faced by thousands of people to reach Siliguri since over a month, with long detours.
From each two-wheeler availing the bamboo bridge, they are charging Rs 10.
Some commuters pointed out they save on fuel by using this bamboo bridge and so Rs 10 does not matter. Others questioned what authority local youths have to build a bridge on the river or collect usage fee from commuters.
Ratan Saha, a daily commuter from Shivmandir to City Centre in Siliguri, said if he used the bamboo bridge he would not have to take a detour through AH-II to reach his office. “This means, I can save on fuel costs for around 20km. Compared to it, Rs 10 is a minor matter. It is good that the local youths have come up with the bridge,” Saha said.
Matigara block administration officials said they will look into the issue. “We will conduct an inquiry and only then comment it,” said Sribash Biswas, the BDO of Matigara.