A river that eats bridges

The current steel bridge under construction.

[ Avia Ngwazah ]

They call it Pagla Nallah or the mad river. Rightly nicknamed, this ankle-deep river 6 miles off Miao town, at Empen, gets seriously violent when it pours from the sky. It has destroyed at least four concrete bridges and swept away a young girl of 7th Mile, Empen.

Many of us were stranded from time to time. A few had close calls. It has ripped bicycles off people carrying their bicycles on their shoulders. Many of you know what I’m talking about.

Between 1966 and 1974, when the CPWD laid the Miao-Vijaynagar road, they lined up large culvert pipes across this river. After a long time, the river disregarded the culverts and went by on one side.

In recent years, they twice concretized a large portion of the riverbed itself as a type of flat bridge. However, it was not helpful either. Then, a few years ago, the contractors constructed an RCC bridge with some eight narrow spans of supporting pillar-walls. Now this was something. Even when the bridge was just being built, the onlooking villagers scoffed at the design.

They said that it would not stand the floods. And sure enough, when the floods came, the bays were all blocked with large drift trees, stones, etc. Bypassing the dwarfed bridge, the river happily flowed. It became difficult to reach the bridge itself, which appeared like a plateau with steep rumpled cliffs.

However, as of now, Pagla Nallah is being tamed with a steel bridge spanning the entire river. Now it sure looks like it’ll be done.

Now, even onlookers and passersby all nod their heads, saying, “At last! It is more like it. This will do!”

Seeing the bridge now taking shape day by day, I’m so thankful and feel a little emotional. I remember how, on many occasions, we got stopped by this river and had to halt the night at 8th or 9th Mile. On different occasions, my bike drank some of this water.

Although it has been a really long time – 1966 to now – at least now there will be an all-weather bridge that will serve millions of commuters.

We have not forgotten lieutenant governor KAA Raja, who inaugurated the Miao-Vijaynagar road in 1974. We are also thankful to former governor JJ Singh, who also pushed for the restoration of the Miao-Vijaynagar road. We also heartily thank Governor BD Mishra, who got behind this road. He has mounted a ‘war’ for the completion of this 55-year-old road project.

It is also fresh in our minds that just a few months back, our Chief Minister Pema Khandu, RWD Minister Honchun Ngandam, our own local minister Kamlung Mossang and many others drove and trudged from Miao to Vijaynagar in order to physically see how the road-making was going on.

Let this Pagla Nallah and Miao-Vijaynagar road story be viewed as a case study of how important, how inhibiting, how neglected and how wanting some places are. It takes right leadership with committed and visionary zeal to see that fundamental infrastructures are put in place.

Right focus, consistent works, those having their hearts in the right place, and those whose eyes see the hardships of the people are the need of the hour. And such people will be remembered with gratitude. Let our nation progress today. (The contributor is the general secretary of the Yobin Tribe Fundamental Rights Forum. He can be contacted at aviafisher@gmail.com)