Frame policy to avert bridge collapses, HC tells Mumbai civic body
The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to come out with a comprehensive bridge policy to ensure incidents like the collapse of Himalaya bridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) are not repeated. It also suggested that the civic body form its own team to independently inspect the bridges at regular intervals, in addition to getting the bridges structurally audited by private experts.
On March 14, six people were killed and 31 injured when a portion of the Himalaya foot overbridge (FoB) collapsed.
“Have some policy in place for all the bridges,” said the bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice Nitin Jamdar. “Prescribe stringent qualifications for appointment of structural auditors,” the judges told senior advocate Anil Sakhare, who represented the BMC. “You must insist on quality, especially when you are spending crores of rupees on structural audit of these bridges.”
The judges said the BMC may also get crowded bridges structurally examined by expert bodies like Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) or Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI).
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), filed by RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh. Shaikh sought inquiry by a retired HC judge into the Himalaya bridge collapse and joint audit of all bridges across the city, including bridges in railway premises, by a reliable agency like the IIT, Bombay.
Responding to the PIL, Sakhare submitted that the civic body has started a thorough inquiry into the incident. The preliminary inquiry found fault with the structural audit done in 2017/18 and also with supervision over the repair works done in 2013, he said. Action is being taken against the auditor as also the civic staff concerned, he said.
Sakhare informed the bench that of the 344 bridges within civic jurisdiction in Mumbai, structural audit of 296 has been done by three different auditors. Of these, 110 were found to be in good condition, whereas 61 required major and 107 required minor repairs. He said of the 18 found to be in poor condition, seven have been demolished. The remaining 11 are closed for public, and a proposal has been initiated to reconstruct all these bridges, he said.