Bihar: An unenviable record of 13 bridge collapses in 18 days

The government has suspended at least 15 engineers in connection with the series of recent bridge collapses

People gather after part of an under-construction bridge collapsed in Supaul, 22 March
People gather after part of an under-construction bridge collapsed in Supaul, 22 March

Akanksha Biradar

On Wednesday, 10 July, Bihar saw yet another bridge collapse, making it the 13th such incident in the state in three weeks. The bridge collapsed at Mahishi village in Saharsa district earlier in the day, an official said. 

“It might be a small bridge or causeway. District officials have left for the spot. We are trying to gather more information about the incident,” additional collector (Saharsa) Jyoti Kumar said. 

On 4 July, a similar incident took place in Saran district. Three bridges collapsed back-to-back in Maharajganj block of Siwan district on 3 July. One collapse was reported in Sikandarpur village, another in Deoria panchayat, and a third in Bhikhabandh. All these constructions were funded by then MP Prabhunath Singh and are over 30 years old. 

A makeshift bamboo bridge was reportedly damaged on the Baghmati river in Aurai block of Muzaffarpur district on 1 July. In June, a series of bridge collapses were reported in five districts — Araria, Siwan, East Champaran, Kishanganj and Madhubani.

On 18 June, a newly constructed bridge over the Bakra river in Pararia village collapsed, followed by another 40-45-year-old bridge in Siwan on 22 June and an under-construction bridge worth Rs 1.5 crore in East Champaran on 23 June.

Which brings us to some of the state's worst bridge collapses in recent years.  

Bhagalpur: About 14 months ago, parts of the under-construction Sultanganj Aguwani bridge collapsed in Bhagalpur district during a thunderstorm, apparently owing to a loose cable. The same four-lane bridge caved in again in June this year. 

Sattarghat: In July 2020, just 29 days after its inauguration, the Sattarghat bridge over the Gandak river in Gopalganj district collapsed due to heavy rain and strong currents.  

Saharsa: In June 2022, part of a bridge in Saharsa collapsed resulting in injuries to three workers. The incident occurred on the eastern side of the Kosi embankment at Kandumer village. 

British-era bridge collapse: A 136-year-old road bridge collapsed near state capital Patna due to excessive rains. The bridge was located in Fatuha, 25 km from Patna proper. 

Nalanda: On 18 November 2022, an under-construction road bridge in Nalanda district collapsed, claiming one life. The road bridge was under construction on the four-lane stretch in Vena block. 

Darbhanga: On 16 January 2024, an iron bridge collapsed because of an overloaded truck at Sabohar Ghat in Darbhanga district. 

Purnea: An under-construction bridge in Purnea district collapsed four hours after concretisation on 16 May 2024. Locals alleged that the contractor and engineers were using low-quality material. 

A concerning pattern 

Bihar has witnessed a particularly troubling pattern of bridge collapses during the under-construction phase. Substandard material, lack of skilled labour, desilting of rivers, and inadequate project management are major reasons. The consequences of these infrastructural failures result in financial losses, delays in crucial connectivity projects, and most gravely, occupational hazards and loss of life. 

Accusations of corruption 

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav has accused chief minister Nitish Kumar's administration of widespread corruption and crime, terming these collapses administrative failures.  

Nitish Kumar has ordered a probe into instances of neglect when it comes to maintenance and repair, though the government holds monsoon rains and overflowing rivers responsible for the incidents.  

Champaran district magistrate Saurabh Jorwal said he was aware of a collapse on 7 July but asserted that it was "not a bridge, not even a causeway".

Bihar has urged the BJP-led Union government to allot Rs 20,000 crore in the 2023-24 Budget for infrastructure development. This was after the state had utilised 95 per cent of the Rs 12,000 crore it received as the Bihar-Specific Plan (BSP) in 2012.

Where was the money used?

Bihar's infrastructure needs expert review, regulatory measures, transparent auditing processes, and an upgrade in the overall standards of construction. A quick and strong fix of these unreliable structures that hinder connectivity and endanger life in Bihar should be on the state and Union’s list of priorities.

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