Says it paid for experts hired by NPWD
Morung Express News
Dimapur | May 26
The Khaghaboto Area Kukami Kuqhakulu (KTKK) said it would not prevent the public from using the Shozhukhu-Zukihe Bridge. KTKK made the statement at a press conference in Khaghaboto today, responding to the Nagaland PWD’s recommendation not to navigate the bridge and citing structural safety concerns.
The recommendation issued by the NPWD on May 21st was only made public on May 23rd by Deputy Commissioner Dimapur. According to the recommendation, the bridge was not certified by experts before it opened to traffic on February 21, and it was not to be used pending safety certification.
Questioning the logic of the NPWD, the KTKK (a forum of village leaders in the Khaghaboto area) questioned why the department had to wait three months to issue the recommendation. “We will not stop the public from participating,” said KTKK chairman Vikato Swu, insisting it would have been wise for the ministry to consult the area’s public before issuing the recommendation. He also said the government would be held accountable if anything happened.
The stumbling block – the foundation of the bridge, he said, was laid when the current chief engineer of the PWD was the chief engineer of the Dimapur division.
Shiwoto Katty, head of Zukihe Village Council, recalled being told at the beginning of the project that the technology used to drive the bridge’s foundation piles was the first of its kind in Nagaland. He said: “We did what the government couldn’t do. Now they create unnecessary problems. They refer to the technical certification. What did you do before?”
The bridge was commissioned by the North Eastern Council through the former NLCPR circa 2006-07. However, it was abandoned halfway through financial disputes between the PWD and the construction company (PABSCON), which eventually ended up in court. In 2019, the work contract was reportedly terminated at the request of the contractor. Given the importance of the bridge against a non-binding stance by the state government, Swu said the area’s public has taken the step to resume construction. Regarding this, he said that in 2015 a statement was filed with the governor.
The then governor is said to have forwarded the appeal to the government, after which the ministry inspected the bridge but stopped doing so. In 2017, KTKK had made two public statements through the media to raise awareness of the project, but to no avail. He added that they eventually took the complaint to the MLA, acting PHED Minister Jacob Zhimomi.
According to an additional media release, the minister wrote to the department to “resume work at the earliest. However, several months passed without any communication from the department concerned with the KTKK.”
As a result of the government’s inaction, he said the area’s public has taken it upon itself to complete the bridge through crowdfunding.
Meanwhile, expert teams have been dispatched from the department to inspect the bridge (foundation) at least twice in 2019 and early 2020. As they claim, the cost of the experts’ visits was borne by the KTKK. “The necessary expenses for the site visit and bridge assessment and other related expenses of the technical team commissioned by the PWD department were borne by the KTKK as the government did not allocate funds to cover these expenses,” the handout said.
The technical teams’ assessment report was presented to the department. But according to the KTKK, there was no follow-up action.
The construction of the bridge was reactivated in 2021 and completed in 11 months. It added that the minister’s appeal for technical assistance from the PWD (R&B) in February 2021 also came to nothing.
Contrary to the PWD opinion, the KTKK said: “The consideration of all necessary technical inputs and corrections was taken into account during the process of completing the bridge.” Nevertheless it said: “The KTKK makes a strong appeal to the NPWD department, within 2 weeks subject matter experts for the required purpose.”