New Delhi: Amid the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) constructed a 484-meter permanent bridge on Ravi river to connect the Kasowal enclave of Punjab along the Pakistan border to the rest of the country.
The BRO opened the bridge ahead of its schedule. The enclave of around 35 square kilometres had hither to been connected via pontoon bridge of limited load capacity. The pontoon bridge used to be dismantled every year prior to the Monsoon or else it would have got washed away in the strong currents of the river. This meant thousands of acres of fertile land across the river could not be tilled by farmers during the Monsoon.
The local population and the Army required a Class 70 permanent bridge to give all weather connectivity to the enclave. Border Roads Organisation conceived and planned for a permanent bridge. The 484-meter bridge was built by 141 Drain Maintenance Coy of 49 Border Roads Task Force (BRTF) of Project Chetak. The bridge costing Rs 17.89 crore excluding the approaches, consist of 16 cells of 30.25-metre length each.
BRO had planned to open the Kasowal bridge in time for Vaisakhi so that the farmers could transport their harvest to the market comfortably. The 16th and last Cell Division was completed on the March 15, 2020 and construction of protective works was under progress when the work came to a halt on March 23 due to the COVID-19 lockdown. To ensure locals do not suffer during the harvest season and also to ensure the bridge does not get damaged because of the heavy discharge of water and the tendency of the river to change course in the monsoons, Border Roads approached Punjab government and Gurdaspur district administration and obtained necessary approvals to continue the work.
Director General Border Roads (DGBR) Lt Gen Harpal Singh said that the BRO teams did the work by taking all necessary COVID-19 precautions. All available resources were diverted and approach work of far bank completed in a short time. On the first Monday after Vaisakhi, the bridge was opened for the farmers who transported their harvests on tractors to the market.