Ch. R. S. Sarma
As as a train passes over the bridge, a passenger can see the dilapidated hundred-year-old rail bridge built by Sir Arthur Cotton and a bow-shaped rail bridge built in the 1990s.
The scrapped century-old rail bridge is preserved as a historic construction to attract tourists and to remind visitors of the yeoman service rendered by the great British engineer to the people of the region. Sir Arthur Cotton also built the barrage across the Godavari at Dhavaleswaram downstream and laid the foundation for the prosperity of the two Godavari districts. The rail-road bridge was built in the early-1970s and inaugurated by the then President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. Since then, the region has witnessed a sea change. Oil and gas were discovered in the Krishna-Godavari basin in the late-1970s and ONGC started its operations in the 1980s.
Later, private players such as Reliance have entered the field. Huge reserves of natural gas have been found in the basin by Reliance and the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation.
Two fertiliser plants have been set up at the port town of Kakinada, which is the headquarters of East Godavari district, and a number of gas-based power plants have come up in the region.
A deep-water port, with three berths, has been constructed at Kakinada and there are plans to construct more berths. The AP Government has ambitious plans to develop the Kakinada-Visakhapatnam stretch as an industrial corridor. A special economic zone is also coming up at Kakinada, the project being executed by a consortium headed by ONGC.
All this economic activity puts enormous pressure on the rail and road network in the Krishna-Godavari basin. There is congestion on the rail-road bridge at Rajahmundry and there is need for a second road bridge near the town.
To meet the need, the State Government is planning another road bridge across the river at a cost of Rs 400 crore. "We are planning to get the road bridge constructed on a build, operate, lease and transfer basis. No heavy vehicle will be allowed on the bridge, to be named after Rajiv Gandhi,'' says Mr J. Ramamohana Rao, the State's Roads and Buildings Minister.
Originally, it was proposed to have the new road bridge right beside the existing rail-road bridge, but the design and site were altered later.
"We now propose to have the bridge starting at Kovvuru on the western side and moving across the river to Kateru-Konthamuru to join the highway at Diwanchruvu. The 4.5-km-long bridge will greatly ease the pressure of road traffic on the rail-road bridge,'' Mr Ramamohana Rao said.
Bids will have to be invited for the bridge, which is expected to be completed in three years, according to the Minister. He said the Railways will soon take up repairs to the rail-road bridge and the State Government will release its share of Rs 70 lakh for the purpose.