Illegal extraction of sand: Sumbal bride develops cracks

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Bandipora: Sumbal bridge that connects Srinagar with Leh, Bandipora, Kangan and Gurez Friday developed cracks resulting in the disruption of traffic for hours. Eyewitnesses told CNS that the a major part of the bridge started developing cracks on Friday afternoon forcing officials to restrict the movement of heavy motor vehicles over the bridge.

The officials of the Roads and Buildings Department blamed the Irrigation and Flood Control Department for the damage to the historic bridge. “The bridge has developed cracks as the I&FC department freely allowed contractors to extract sand under the said bridge,” an R&B official told CNS.

Locals of Sumbal and adjacent areas alleged that in the garb of dredging, sand under the bridge was being extracted illegally during night hours.  “In January this year we had repeatedly protested against the I&FC officials and a contractor who resorted to illegal extraction of sand beneath the bridge. Irrigation and Flood Control Department officials violated all the norms to make quick bucks,” they said.

Despite clear cut directions given to the contractors undertaking the dredging work in the River Jehlum not to extract sand beneath any bridge, sand extraction under the Sumbal bridge continued for day’s and according to locals this illegal practice continued with the active support from the Executive Engineer I&FC Division Sumbal.

“A contractor is supposed to extract sand and other material 500 feet away from any bridge but in Sumbal the case was totally different. During night hours the contractor used his workers and machinery to extract sand under the bridge. A tipper loaded with sand cost Rs 7,000 in the open market and the said contractors used those tippers whole night to ferry sand to different directions,” the locals from Sumbal area told CNS.

They claimed that on the night of January 26 this year, people caught the contractor red handed while extracting the sand under the bridge. “This contractor enjoyed the patronage of a top Irrigation and Flood Control Department official and that is why he easily used to violate the norms set by the department,” locals said adding that they were sure the said bridge will develop cracks and it may collapse anytime.

Despite repeated attempts Executive Engineer I&FC Division Sumbal Ghulam Jeelani could not be contacted, however, Sub-Division Magistrate Sumbal Ghulam Muhammad Bhat said that he will seek explanation from the said Executive Engineer.

Chief Engineer Beacon Ashish Kumar told CNS that they had repeatedly requested I&FC officials stop extracting sand beneath the bridge, however all their efforts prove futile. “There is a three feet long crack and we are mulling to repair it in coming days,” he said. (CNS)

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