Two peoples’ Bridge: locals build own RCC Bridge for Diphu and Dimapur
When the rains get temperamental, 20-ish year old young mother Putima Hussein (name changed on request) drudges a circular route from her thatched hut in Mangnimen village in Diphu under Assam, and roundabout all the way to Rilan to circle Ao Kashiram before reaching Dimapur town in Nagaland.
It’s only during dry seasons that the young mother of a year-old child has a luxury: her house is perched on a narrow ridge overlooking another ridge to the west, toward Dimapur. All she needs to do is to cross the ridge to cut almost 45 minutes to reach Dimapur proper.
If only there were a bridge to connect the two sides on which villagers and residents of villages such as Mon Bosti and Mangnimen–both under Diphu jurisdiction–could use to reach Dimapur swiftly; vice versa for residents of areas such as Borlingri and eastward Rilan village toward Nagaland.
The only obstacle is lowland of approximately 50 meters wide flowing between two narrow ridges, one toward Dimapur and the other toward Diphu. During monsoon, the lowland turns into a raging river that forces villagers to circle all the way to Nagaland check gate and traverse through the Assam Rifles’ garrison at Dillai gate to reach the commercial town of Dimapur.
Miles of agriculture land is the principal feature of this region and too far from the developmental priorities of both the governments of Assam and Nagaland. For a long time, Hussein, who takes care of a contract paddy field, had not been able to appreciate developmental connectivity as a realistic provision. That is, until now: a group of concerned villagers are building a concrete ‘bridge’ from funds they raised from among their selves and well-wishers. There are no government agencies or private companies, or even developmental offerings going into the bridge.
Since February first week, determined volunteers and contributors numbering 5-6 a day have been patiently tolling at building a rudimentary but concrete-reinforced viaduct over which a bridge would be set.
And it began with a meagre Rs. 80, 000 that landowners and villagers, who live along the fringe with Karbi Anglong’s Diphu district and Dimapur, mobilized from among themselves.
Obangtemsu Aier, an enthusiastic contributor to the project from Dimapur explained that the need to reduce the time and distance for the regional populations of two opposite sides was long-felt. Once the bridge is completed, it will connect the populations from the two regional communities of Diphu in Assam and Dimapur in Nagaland.
A purely community-funded, ‘community-laboured’ concrete-reinforced viaduct-cum-bridge is being built by local residents of Diphu in Karbi Anglong in Assam, and of Dimapur in Nagaland. The rudimentary bridge, seen in between two high ridges, will connect two regional populations, Dimapur-side and Diphu-side when completed.
The funds are from the concerned citizens themselves and the labourers are their-selves too! Seen in blue vest, Imliakum Aier, a studio sound professional, one of the voluntary ‘labourers’ helping to build the community bridge.
There are no engineers, construction designers, and surface engineering professionals or even masons and labourers building the unique bridge–all of them are ordinary citizens living in Diphu and Dimapur. It was informed that one of the concerned contributors, a Supong Jamir, said to be of the Public Works department, taught the ‘workers’ how to lay concrete, fasten wires and iron bars, and even align the bars over the viaduct to hold the bridge! ‘He is the only one with technical know-how,’ Aier explained.
By the explanation of the workers there, including a young studio engineer Imliakum Aier, the bridge is a legacy that can last, hopefully, at least 50 years.
If plans go smoothly, the concrete viaduct will hold a platform that can carry the weight of a ’ten tonne truck’ comfortably, according to them. Once the concrete span is in place, earth and stone would be used to create a road that would connect the two ridges. During a visit to the spot on Monday, this reporter saw that the platform was about 5 feet high with a width base of at least 10’ across, all in concrete, reinforced by iron grills and rods.
‘We are running this project on a shoestring budget,’ Aier admitted, foreseeing the possibility of closure in the event funds run out. The only source of funds and labour (voluntary) are from the locals, including landowners.
However, the land on which the bridge is being build and the earth-mounted road would be set to link the two ridges–is a private land. It was informed that a kind land donor came in the form of a Longernungba Jamir of Mopungchuket village under Mokokchung district. It was informed that Jamir offered a patch of his land for the cause, even exchanging a parallel strip of land with another landowner (from the opposite ridge) so that the bridge and road would be straight to run through.
The volunteers have already created the viaduct and a rudimentary platform for the bridge. The next would be to fill the opposite ends of it to create an earth-filled road to connect the two ridges. The volunteers have been working every day, some in fives, and on good days, in sevens and eights since February first week.
And there are no hired labourers except for a privately-funded hiring of an excavator. The excavator has ploughed a narrow strip of passage that would straddle the bridge. Funds are the only worry at this moment as this community project turned out to be a colossal developmental activity – no matter how humanitarian.
Nonetheless, they are determined to complete creating a decent bridge, garnering more funds from among their selves if need be.
‘It has been flooding every year and we cannot travel to Dimapur through this shortcut but have to travel around from Diphu side,’ explained Hussein, bathing her son. ‘If this bridge is made, then our problem would be lessened; the distance would be reduced much.’
Indeed, it is truly a people’s bridge for the people, by the people and of the people of Diphu and Dimapur.