Monday, January 30, 2012

Bambooflat-Chatham Bridge: Demand Intensifies


Bambooflat-Chatham Bridge: Demand Intensifies

By Staff Reporter

The demand for a bridge connecting Bambooflat with Chatham was a common point in most of the memoranda submitted to the Home Minister. It was part of the agenda of all major political parties and Pachayati Raj Institutions. Bambooflat Bridge Forum, a group strongly pursuing the matter at various levels has been approaching political parties and others to take up the issue.
In a representation addressed to the Home Minister, the Bambooflat Bridge Forum as well as Humane Touch has highlighted the plight of about 15000 commuters who depend on the erratic and insufficient ferry service to commute between Bambooflat and Port Blair.
Port Blair, the capital city is the hub of all citizen centric services like the lone referral GB Pant Hospital, A&N Administration Secretariat, LG/CS/Deputy Commissioners Office, Civil Courts, Directorates of all Offices, Schools, Colleges, Polytechnic, ITI, Business Establishments, Shops, Sports facilities etc and that a good number of people form the rural South Andaman i.e, Ferrargunj Tehsil need to visit Port Blair to avail one or the other services, including employment on daily basis.
The representation said that Ferrargunj Tehsil is the second most populated after Port Blair Tehsil of South Andaman district.  About 15000 passengers - comprising students, office-goers, patients, Industrial workers - and more than a thousand vehicles, both two-wheelers and four wheelers commute between Bambooflat and Chatham.
In a joint representation by Humane Touch, it blamed the Andaman & Nicobar administration, which has miserably failed to cater to the need and requirements of these passengers. In the name of augmenting the vehicle ferry services, the Directorate of Shipping Services has procured a number of boats, which has not been put into services due to reasons best known to the authorities. The boat service is frequently disrupted due to technical snag in the boats which currently ply on this route, thus causing irreparable loss of time to the citizens.
With time, there has been enormous increase in the numbers of passengers and Vehicles as well.  The ferry services operated by Directorate of Shipping Services (DSS) with subsidized rate could hardly meet the demands of the increased commuters.  Capacity wise the ferries are inadequate and routinely irregular.  The commuters waste precious time waiting for their turn to get accommodated in ferry and cross over to Chatham.  Parents especially those of school going children are forced to migrate to Port Blair so that their child's precious time is not wasted waiting for ferry which they could concentrate on studies.  Often patients referred to GB Pant for specialized treatment could be seen gasping for life, waiting for the ferry.
It also blamed that DSS has badly failed to deliver the service for which they are in place. Moreover, there is no scope for putting additional ferries in the route as there is only one Jetty on each side.  There is one ferry almost every half an hour during the peak time.  Given the windy conditions and passenger ferries apart from vehicle ferry plying in the route, existing jetties are already saturated leaving no scope for introduction of additional ferry in between. On many occasion, the ferries hover for want of berthing place.
The Forum strongly advocated that there is no alternative left but to construct a bridge connecting Bambooflat to Chatham. It also felt that construction of a bridge will solve the problem faced by the rural South Andaman once and for all. It also believes that this move will in-turn prove beneficial in many ways.
Quoting the Supreme Court verdict for the closure of ATR from Jirkatang to Middle Strait and the alternate proposed ATR via Shoal Bay, the forum has demanded for a bridge which will serve as the main life line for North- Middle Andaman in this context if the Bridge connecting Bambooflat- Chatham is built.
 The bridge, it believes will provide seamless connectivity and prove to be a life line for the entire population residing in the rural South Andaman including those who are referred from Rangat, Mayabunder or Diglipur area for specialized treatment at GB Pant Hospital Port Blair, thereby raising the quality of life.
On the tourism front, the forum highlighted that the locations like Mount Harriet, North Bay and the lesser known Shoal Bay could be promoted thereby increasing employment potential and the tourism industry will get the much needed boost in rural South Andaman as well.
The bridge would also motivate population to migrate to the rural South Andaman, which will help in decongesting the already chocked Port Blair city, the memorandum said.
Huge revenue spent on procurement, maintenance and operational cost on large fleet of boats and revenue loss due to enormous amount of subsidy being rendered to commuters. The whole loss incurring as on date could be a revenue generator if a bridge comes to existence in the said route. The cost incurred for construction of such bridge could be retrieved by imposing toll-tax as being followed in mainland.
Such a bridge could last for at-least 100 to 150 years as compared to boats/ships  each of which  costs crores of rupees and runs on enormous amount of  HSD, stock of which is ever depleting and is certain to dry up sooner or later.
The forum has already approached the Administration to seriously look into the imminent need of the rural population and sought their intervention to initiate a study without further delay. Political parties like Congress and BJP and Adhyaksh, Zilla Parishad, South Andaman has also raised this issue.

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